The day the New York Jets fired Mike Maccagnan had folks losing their minds over the idea Adam Gase had won a power struggle. Why, exactly?
Introducing your acting general manager, the already-controversial head-coaching hire who just arrived a few months earlier, Adam Gase. The moment the New York Jets announced that news last offseason was the signal to all backers that their team just can’t help but showcase exactly what they are: the Jets.
Group therapy was back in session with a vengeance on Wednesday, May 15, 2019, the day the Jets fired Mike Maccagnan. The media turned it up to level “obnoxious” and the “Same Old Jets” continued to rile up an entire fanbase.
If only everybody could understand how shortsighted those reactions actually were at the time. It would have saved a lot of embarrassment for all involved.
Perhaps it was the “turn on a dime” timeline that got under everybody’s skin. After all, multiple reports surfaced that suggested Maccagnan’s job was safe prior to his ouster. He obviously made it through the end-of-the-season process while head coach Todd Bowles was fed to the wolves, but despite a couple of reports to the contrary, “safe” was the word surrounding Maccagnan prior to and after the 2019 NFL draft.
Then, suddenly, it happened, and the outrage was felt for many miles in so many directions. Much of the media felt betrayed. In terms of the fans’ perspective, remember, the fans—no matter how fooled—were incredibly hyped up at the time.
The Jets first unveiled new uniforms. Bringing the party to Manhattan, J.B. Smoove and the organization introduced the new dazzling cloth to tremendous energy. Then, Maccagnan riled up the entirety of the fanbase with two big-time veteran free agent acquisitions, Le’Veon Bell and C.J. Mosley. Finally, big Quinnen Williams and the 2019 draft class rounded the offseason of hype out in fine-fitting form.
(Pay no attention to the fact new uniforms mean very little, high-priced veteran free agents are not the way to Vince Lombardi Trophies and adding another interior defensive lineman when plenty are in-house and the edge remained as bleak as ever should have stomped out at least some of the hype; Jets fans were all-in, so they too were blindsided by the Maccagnan firing.)
From incompetence to laughingstock to dumpster fire, it was officially on, as is the case with this franchise every now and again. How in the world could the Jets allow a failed, newly-hired head coach to win a power struggle over the sitting five-year GM?
On that very day, I happened to take a different approach—one everybody should have considered and one everybody could have considered if they didn’t allow the Gase angle to blind them into pure silliness.
The organization deserved a great amount of credit for pulling the trigger.
Say what you want about Gase, but if he arrived on the scene and quickly realized his surroundings weren’t up to snuff, is it a bad thing if he spoke up? This is his second stint as coach. Few ever get a third try. I’ll be damned if I hire a head coach who comes to town and remains extremely quiet in the face of incompetence at the personnel level. Give me the guy who’ll do whatever it takes to win.
“The more I looked, the more I realized that I wanted to move on,” Johnson told reporters. “It was only through diving deep into the organization, it was only through going through this particular offseason deeply that I understood how this organization was lacking in certain ways.
“This isn’t a decision that I could’ve made at the end of the season. I could with Todd. I could not with Mike.”
Instead of looking at the situation in a terrible light, what if Adam Gase was the man who forced Christopher Johnson to finally see the light? No matter what you think of Gase, there’s no way that could be spun as a negative.
Yes, it did come way too late. No organization should fire a general manager after he goes out and spends an incredible amount of money on free agents and gets it wrong again in the NFL draft. Maccagnan should have been gone with Bowles, if not much sooner. Any GM who drafts just three offensive linemen over five drafts with a terrible offensive line in tow and a young franchise quarterback deserves an immediate pink slip.
Once Johnson realized his mistake, what’s he to do? Should he have waited it out until next offseason after already realizing his mistake? That would have been the very definition of true incompetence yet the media world would have been none the wiser.
Instead, he pulls the trigger, makes the gutsy call and elevates an unpopular head coaching hire to temporary general manager status. Eventually, a true football man in Joe Douglas is hired and he made what should have been the priority in 2015 his immediate area of concern in his first offseason: the offensive line.
Better yet, Johnson and the Jets were forced into an already-existing relationship at the head coach-general manager level. Gase and Douglas know each other. They’ve worked together before, unlike Maccagnan and Bowles previously. The Jets hierarchy is set up in a way that features the head coach and general manager on the same level, both reporting to ownership. When those two guys don’t really know one another coming in, behind the scenes and backchannel game becomes ultra-sticky at times.
The idea Gase had GM power and gladly gave it up for a guy he knows and trusts, Douglas, means the world. The fact the Jets also gave Douglas final say over personnel—something they haven’t always been willing to do in the past—means a lot. Firing Maccagnan allowed this seemingly swimmingly partnership and structure to be put into action.
Now, one year and one day after Douglas’s hiring, the Jets are sitting pretty with a general manager who understands how football teams are truly built: from the inside-out and through major competition, especially in July and August. Imagine if Maccagnan wasn’t fired. Would Douglas be here? Would Gase still have GM control in some twisted, maybe even temporary way?
Criticism was always warranted. Maccagnan should have been gone in January 2019, at the latest. But to allow emotions to spew so vehemently simply because the organization assured you the man was safe is to not keep a rational and objective head.
Sometimes it takes a fresh face to reveal football sins of the past. After all, it should not have taken a Paul Brown-caliber football mind to do exactly that. Many fans already understood the incompetence. Adam Gase—no matter your thoughts and feelings on the man—would have sufficed.
In the end, the entire emotional, absurdly shortsighted reaction that came from Mike Maccagnan’s ouster worked to the New York Jets’ benefit—something not even the reporter with the most lost leaks (firmly patched up over a year’s work) can deny at this point.