To the surprise of absolutely no one in the Northern Hemisphere, the New York Jets hired former Philadelphia vice president of player personnel Joe Douglas to be their new general manager Friday night. Douglas was hyped as the front-runner for the job ever since predecessor Mike Maccagnan was sacked unexpectedly on May 15.
On paper, Douglas seems like a pretty good hire, especially when one considers the constraints the Jets put upon themselves.
By firing Maccagnan at this point in the year, acting owner Christopher Johnson and the organization had missed the normal hiring period for front-office personnel by several months, lessening the pool of candidates. More importantly, the manner in which Maccagnan lost his job, a palace coup by new head coach Adam Gase, made it imperative the Jets find a GM with whom Gase could co-exist peacefully.
Thus, Douglas checks a lot of boxes. Although he’s yet to run his own show in terms of the front office, Douglas’ contributions to the Eagles’ Super Bowl champion of two seasons ago earned him high praise from Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie. And before spending the last three years in the Philadelphia front office, Douglas was Chicago’s director of college scouting in 2015. He came to the Bears after spending 15 years in various personnel capacities with the Baltimore Ravens.
But that year in Chicago loomed large on his resume. That’s because that same season, Gase was Chicago’s offensive coordinator, and the two got to know one another a little bit.
That’s one reason why, even though the Jets would vehemently deny it, Douglas seems like Gase’s hand-picked choice, even though Gase repeatedly said it would be Johnson’s decision ultimately.
Now comes the hard part–making this pre-established relationship work under much different circumstances. Unlike in Chicago, each now is in a position of power. In fact, Gase had even more control until Douglas signed on the dotted line. In the three-plus weeks since Maccagnan was fired, Gase also served as the interim general manager, meaning he had final say in terms of the roster.
Douglas has that control now. Or at least that’s how Gase and the Jets portrayed it would be once Maccagnan’s replacement was located. Gase also had final say over roster moves during his tenure as Miami’s head coach, but has said he is fine with relinquishing it, and that he doesn’t like to be around “yes men.”
Presumably, considering their history with one another, Gase and Douglas will be on the same page. And that is what matters most. For too long, the Jets have relied on arranged marriages between HCs (thank you Bill Belichick) and GMs, one large reason why they have not been to the playoffs since 2010. As I wrote earlier, rectifying this could be a big help.
Another potential positive to come out of this bizarre situation is that there may be legitimate competition at more spots on the roster than usual when training camp begins in late July. For a long time, and especially during Maccagnan’s four-year tenure, New York’s training camps were mere formalities, with the 53-man roster almost pre-ordained before the players even reported.
But Gase and Douglas have no ties to most of these players, and thus have less of a stake in keeping them around. Put it this way–unlike Maccagnan, they won’t care about his legacy. During Gase’s three-plus weeks stint as interim GM, his moves included trading underachieving 2016 first-round pick, linebacker Darron Lee, to Kansas City. He also waived 2017 fifth-rounder Jordan Leggett, a tight end who may have potential. He immediately was claimed by Tampa Bay.
Of Maccagnan’s first three draft classes, 12 of the 22 players are gone from New York, and six of those are out of the league entirely. And two signings Gase made recently could threaten the job security of three more draftees.
Hours before the Jets agreed to terms with. Douglas, the Jets re-signed veteran running back Bilal Powell, a free agent who has spent his entire eight-year NFL career, and has been both dependable and productive. He still was on the open market because of a neck injury that cut short his 2018 season after seven games, but apparently showed the Jets he was healthy enough in a workout prior to being signed again.
That means immediate, veteran competition at running back for sixth-round selections Eli McGuire (2017) and Trenton Cannon (2018), the latter of whom has seen very little action during the spring practice sessions open to the media. Free-agent signee Ty Montgomery also can play wide receiver and his spot seems safe because of his versatility.
Gase earlier signed former Miami punter Matt Darr, who was the Dolphins’ regular punter in 2015 and 2016, Gase’s first year there. Thus, incumbent Lachlan Edwards will face a serious challenge for the first time since he was a rookie in 2015.
For the past four years, the Jets had a toxic combination of a general manager who was not decisive and a head coach (Todd Bowles) who refused to bench players no matter how poorly they performed. (See former slot cornerback Buster Skrine, now with Chicago.) If nothing else, the era of players getting a free ride because of their draft status and/or contracts will be over in the new Gase/Douglas regime. And that’s a good thing.