Good Article by Albert Breer. Probably one of the better NFL insiders these days
But we’re starting in Florham Park, which is the same as it always was.
With everything above standing, the Jets will find someone. There are only 32 GM jobs, and fewer than that come with full roster authority. This one has merits—Sam Darnold is, in some evaluators’ eyes, among the top three or four quarterback prospects to come into the league this decade, and Leonard Williams, Jamal Adams and Quinnen Williams give the defense a young backbone.
Conversely, there’s a lot that made it abundantly clear how badly the organization was misaligned—a result of too many people acting as foot soldiers and not enough stepping up as generals. There was no big blowup in the building, no public display of dissension. But there was plenty of passive aggression to make up for that.
• There was a widespread belief in the organization that the pursuit of Bell was spurred by ownership—or moreso that Maccagnan conducted it because he knew that’s what the Johnsons wanted. In the process, Gase informed others in the building that he didn’t want Bell, but said that, if Bell signed, he’d be fine coaching him. Fair or not, some saw that as Gase distancing himself from the decision, while lining himself up for credit if it worked, in large part because that matched up with his reputation in Miami.
• Mosley was a different case. Gase had him No. 1 on his veteran wish list from the start, I’m told, which explains the wild price the Jets paid to get him: $17 million per, which is nearly $5 million per more than Luke Kuechly made as the NFL’s highest paid off-ball linebacker in 2018. The coach saw him as the type of cultural tone-setter he wanted for his program. Even if no one was crazy about the price tag, the Jets knew they’d have to overpay to beat out Baltimore, which badly wanted to keep him. They wound up a full $3 million per past the Ravens in the process.
• Some friction ahead of free agency was settled well before the draft, and with goals accomplished on the veteran market, many in the building were led to believe that the Maccagnan/Gase partnership was moving forward. Then before the draft, another small sign that aligned with how the Bell situation was perceived cropped up. The coaches ranked Quinnen Williams above Houston DT Ed Oliver, but gushed over Oliver in meetings. This was seen, again, as coaches covering themselves on both ends of a decision, this time openly lusting for one player while toeing the line on the league-wide consensus that the other was better.
• Through it all, Maccagnan held the trigger, and came under criticism internally over a lack of decisiveness that matched poorly with others playing both sides of decision; he’d collect opinions but rarely came down strongly on one side or another in meetings. But free agency and the draft were his shows—In fact, in the war room on draft weekend, Gase was relatively quiet. So it’s easy to ask why Johnson allowed his lame-duck GM to run the bulk of the offseason, if there was a plan to go in another direction (and rumors were circulating about Maccagnan and potential replacement Joe Douglas weeks before the draft). In a similar situation two years ago, the Bills wound up quietly giving command of the draft to coach Sean McDermott, knowing Doug Whaley was on the outs. That didn’t happen here.
• And while we’re there, amid all of Wednesday’s tumult, it took less than 12 hours for Gase to ship out Maccagnan’s big first-round miss as GM—linebacker Darron Lee. The previous regime had discussed a Lee trade with the Chiefs for a few weeks and was holding firm in asking for a fifth-round pick. Shortly after Maccagnan was fired, Kansas City sensed opportunity, and called to offer their 2020 sixth-round pick for Lee, who the Chiefs view as one of the best pure cover linebackers in football. As interim GM, I’m told Gase was indeed the one who did a deal that quickly finalized. That, by the way, leaves just five players (Leonard Williams, Jordan Jenkins, Brandon Shell, Lac Edwards and Charone Peake) from Maccagnan’s first two draft classes, with players from those classes heading into Years 4 and 5.
Again, if you’re Johnson, can you sell that?
The lead candidate to replace Maccagnan is Douglas, the Eagles VP of player personnel, and one of the NFL’s most respected evaluators. He’d be Gase’s pick. And if the Jets can land him, I’d bet on the chance that having traipsed through this smoldering fire would prove worth it for New York.
But with all the associated rubble, Douglas would have a lot to consider before taking the job.
The ex-Ravens exec served 16 years in Baltimore, mostly on the road as a college scout, before a one-year stop in Chicago (where he crossed over with then-Bears OC Adam Gase) that led to becoming the Eagles’ No. 2 behind Howie Roseman in 2016. In Philly, Douglas helped build a Super Bowl champion team with staying power, and has positioned himself in a similar spot to the one Chris Ballard was in three years ago.
Coming up in Chicago, then landing in Kansas City as John Dorsey’s top lieutenant, Ballard turned down GM opportunity after GM opportunity, waiting for the right one to open up—with a quarterback and, preferably, in the Midwest—knowing that the Chiefs were stable and his stock was high. The benefits of that patience, and wisdom, are now on full display in Ballard’s Indianapolis.
So is this Douglas’s version of Indy? Darnold makes it enticing. Johnson could crash a Brink’s armored truck into his house, making it even harder to say no.
Douglas—who, from a reputation and demeanor standpoint, is actually similar to Ballard—is sharp enough to evaluate everything about his next step before he takes it, knowing, of course, that it’s the final rung of the ladder for a scout to climb. That’s why he very carefully has to consider what happened the last four months in Florham Park.
Maybe the deal is already done. That would explain the timing, among other things, of the owner’s move to fire Maccagnan three weeks after the draft. If it is done then, like I said, the likelihood is all this ugliness will be worth it, a sort of broken road to one of the NFL’s best personnel guys.
From there, Douglas would have a pretty daunting task ahead of him—one where the roster certainly wouldn’t be the first thing he’d have to fix.