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[Mehta] Exclusive Look Inside the Jets Mess: A secret meeting, a reckless owner and a GM stabbed in the back


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Exclusive Look Inside the Jets Mess: A secret meeting, a reckless owner and a GM stabbed in the back

Manish Mehta
| NEW YORK DAILY NEWS |
MAY 30, 2019 | 7:00 AM
  
 
 

The view overlooking Central Park from the library inside Christopher Johnson’s apartment made you think that you’d died and gone to heaven.

The clandestine meeting took place inside the sprawling Manhattan condo during a 10-day window in late November/early December, while the Jets were in free fall.

General manager Mike Maccagnan, top lieutenant Brian Heimerdinger, agent Erik Burkhardt and Johnson had wine over dinner, exploring the possibilities of landing former Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury, while Todd Bowles twisted in the wind for the final month of a four-win campaign, according to sources.

The clumsy plan was part of a larger, flawed strategy by Johnson that included back-channel conversations with more established coaching candidates during the same time frame, unbeknownst to Maccagnan.

 

Johnson’s series of stealth, reckless actions in the past six months have prompted decision makers across the NFL to question the leadership of this star-crossed outfit.

Jets owner Christopher Johnson held a secret meeting at this Central Park pad late last year to plot out hiring a new coach.
Jets owner Christopher Johnson held a secret meeting at this Central Park pad late last year to plot out hiring a new coach. (Julio Cortez/AP)

The secret meet-and-greet with Burkhardt, who ultimately landed a deal for Kingsbury to become the Cardinals head coach, was just a piece of a poorly designed strategy by a neophyte owner, who wanted to get ahead of a head coaching search, while keeping his current coach in place.

It also calls into the question the football infrastructure of an organization that has gone sideways or backwards for the better part of a half century.

The rendezvous at Johnson’s apartment was a microcosm of a bizarre six months for a wayward franchise. The Jets CEO and Chairman didn’t only go behind Bowles’ back during the final month or so of the season. He also strategically kept Maccagnan in the dark.

Johnson used a confidant as an intermediary late in the season to touch base with the camps of at least two established head coaches, according to sources. The Jets’ proposals were crystal clear: The News learned that the established coach would have total control with the power to keep or fire Maccagnan. There was already a faction in the building that wanted to move on from the GM, according to sources. Maccagnan knew none of it.

Meanwhile, Bowles was still coaching the team.

Pro Football Talk reported on Dec. 23 that the Jets spent about four weeks researching and gauging Jim Harbaugh’s interest with designs on making a run at the Michigan coach after the season. The Jets interviewed the then-Stanford coach in 2009 before hiring Rex Ryan and made an eleventh-hour plea for Harbaugh in 2015 before hiring Bowles, according to sources. Sources confirmed the PFT report that Gang Green made similar overtures this time.

Johnson, who had already met with Kingsbury’s agent in person in addition to having others reach out to prospective candidates' camps, issued a statement through the team on Dec. 24 after the PFT report: “Todd Bowles is our head coach," Johnson said. “There is no truth to the report of our interest in Jim Harbaugh.”

Johnson had plausible deniability since the intermediary wasn’t a Jets employee.

Johnson’s inexperience in the big chair has been magnified after a year-long honeymoon period. He could have easily avoided all of it by firing Bowles during the season and getting a head start on the coaching search. Instead, he resorted to covert meetings and turned to intermediaries to gauge back-channel interest. Bowles, in fact, insisted that Johnson let him know his fate the night of the Jets’ season-ending loss to the Patriots on Dec. 30 rather than drag it out to Black Monday as Johnson planned, according to sources.

Although Maccagnan and Heimerdinger shouldn’t be absolved for their involvement in an in-season meeting with an agent of a prospective replacement for Bowles, the Daily News has learned that the encounter came under Johnson’s direction.

Maccagnan and Heimerdinger’s futures beyond the 2018 season were tenuous. With their jobs on the line, it’s fair to wonder whether they had any other practical choice but to follow orders from their boss. They would have likely been fired with Bowles after the season if they offered resistance to Johnson’s desire to meet with Burkhardt to learn more about Kingsbury.

“(Johnson) was the driving force,” said one current Jets employee.

Despite Christopher Johnson's interest, Kliff Kingsbury lands with the Arizona Cardinals.
Despite Christopher Johnson's interest, Kliff Kingsbury lands with the Arizona Cardinals. (Matt York/AP)

Burkhardt, who met with Jets brass after Kingsbury was fired by Texas Tech (Nov. 25) and before he was hired as USC’s offensive coordinator (Dec. 5), told the News: “My client’s business will remain confidential among all parties. I don’t discuss matters of their employment.”

The Jets conducted a formal interview with Kingsbury on Jan. 7. Team brass reached out to Burkhardt afterward to let him know that they were still very much interested in Kingsbury, but wanted to complete their interview process before deciding whether to make a formal offer. But it was too late.

Kingsbury signed with the Cardinals — who paid the coach’s $150,000 buyout to USC — the following day.

Maccagnan — who was fired on May 15 — declined comment when reached for this story. Johnson and Heimerdinger (also fired this month) couldn’t be reached for comment. The Jets declined multiple requests for comment.

Johnson’s interest in Kingsbury was fueled, in part, by TV personality/sideline reporter Peter Schrager, according to sources. (Schrager broke the news on January 8 that Kingsbury was going to be Arizona’s next head coach).

The News reported last week that Schrager’s name surfaced during internal discussions about the team’s GM search in the wake of Maccagnan’s ouster. The Jets also told people that they felt comfortable turning to Schrager, who is a close friend of the Jets CEO, as a resource for opinions, suggestions or ideas if needed.

So, the fact that Schrager, who attended Johnson’s wedding last summer, had influence on the acting owner’s head coaching search shouldn’t be surprising.

Schrager, who didn’t return several requests for comment, said on television last week that he had yet to be contacted by the Jets regarding assistance on the GM search.

The Jets eventually name Adam Gase (l.) to replace the fired Todd Bowles and then dump GM Mike Maccagnan earlier this month.
The Jets eventually name Adam Gase (l.) to replace the fired Todd Bowles and then dump GM Mike Maccagnan earlier this month.

Adam Gase has been running the GM search. The head coach has personally reached out to each candidate to make his pitch, sources said. Gase’s role is similar to Charley Casserly from the last search, minus the consultant fee. Johnson will have to sign off on Gase’s preferred choice.

It’s fair for prospective general manager candidates to wonder what they’re walking into on One Jets Drive.

Christopher Johnson’s recklessness, Gase’s savvy and the reality that nobody knows what will happen when owner Woody Johnson returns from his appointment as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom as early as 2020 is enough to give anyone cause for concern.

 

https://www.nydailynews.com/sports/football/jets/ny-jets-turmoil-johnson-maccagnan-20190530-bqohcmaux5hh5ift6vk6ewkzkq-story.html

 

Edited by Maxman
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trash article posted to reduce spam - a new low from one of the worst;

 

The view overlooking Central Park from the library inside Christopher Johnson’s apartment made you think that you’d died and gone to heaven.

The clandestine meeting took place inside the sprawling Manhattan condo during a 10-day window in late November/early December, while the Jets were in free fall.

General manager Mike Maccagnan, top lieutenant Brian Heimerdinger, agent Erik Burkhardt and Johnson had wine over dinner, exploring the possibilities of landing former Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury, while Todd Bowles twisted in the wind for the final month of a four-win campaign, according to sources.

The clumsy plan was part of a larger, flawed strategy by Johnson that included back-channel conversations with more established coaching candidates during the same time frame, unbeknownst to Maccagnan.

The secret meet-and-greet with Burkhardt, who ultimately landed a deal for Kingsbury to become the Cardinals head coach, was just a piece of a poorly designed strategy by a neophyte owner, who wanted to get ahead of a head coaching search, while keeping his current coach in place.

It also calls into the question the football infrastructure of an organization that has gone sideways or backwards for the better part of a half century.

The rendezvous at Johnson’s apartment was a microcosm of a bizarre six months for a wayward franchise. The Jets CEO and Chairman didn’t only go behind Bowles’ back during the final month or so of the season. He also strategically kept Maccagnan in the dark.

Johnson used a confidant as an intermediary late in the season to touch base with the camps of at least two established head coaches, according to sources. The Jets’ proposals were crystal clear: The News learned that the established coach would have total control with the power to keep or fire Maccagnan. There was already a faction in the building that wanted to move on from the GM, according to sources. Maccagnan knew none of it.

Meanwhile, Bowles was still coaching the team.

Pro Football Talk reported on Dec. 23 that the Jets spent about four weeks researching and gauging Jim Harbaugh’s interest with designs on making a run at the Michigan coach after the season. The Jets interviewed the then-Stanford coach in 2009 before hiring Rex Ryan and made an eleventh-hour plea for Harbaugh in 2015 before hiring Bowles, according to sources. Sources confirmed the PFT report that Gang Green made similar overtures this time.

Johnson, who had already met with Kingsbury’s agent in person in addition to having others reach out to prospective candidates' camps, issued a statement through the team on Dec. 24 after the PFT report: “Todd Bowles is our head coach," Johnson said. “There is no truth to the report of our interest in Jim Harbaugh.”

Johnson had plausible deniability since the intermediary wasn’t a Jets employee.

Johnson’s inexperience in the big chair has been magnified after a year-long honeymoon period. He could have easily avoided all of it by firing Bowles during the season and getting a head start on the coaching search. Instead, he resorted to covert meetings and turned to intermediaries to gauge back-channel interest. Bowles, in fact, insisted that Johnson let him know his fate the night of the Jets’ season-ending loss to the Patriots on Dec. 30 rather than drag it out to Black Monday as Johnson planned, according to sources.

Although Maccagnan and Heimerdinger shouldn’t be absolved for their involvement in an in-season meeting with an agent of a prospective replacement for Bowles, the Daily News has learned that the encounter came under Johnson’s direction.

Maccagnan and Heimerdinger’s futures beyond the 2018 season were tenuous. With their jobs on the line, it’s fair to wonder whether they had any other practical choice but to follow orders from their boss. They would have likely been fired with Bowles after the season if they offered resistance to Johnson's desire to meet with Burkhardt to learn more about Kingsbury.

“(Johnson) was the driving force,” said one current Jets employee.

Burkhardt, who met with Jets brass after Kingsbury was fired by Texas Tech (Nov. 25) and before he was hired as USC’s offensive coordinator (Dec. 5), told the News: “My client’s business will remain confidential among all parties. I don’t discuss matters of their employment.”

The Jets conducted a formal interview with Kingsbury on Jan. 7. Team brass reached out to Burkhardt afterward to let him know that they were still very much interested in Kingsbury, but wanted to complete their interview process before deciding whether to make a formal offer. But it was too late.

Kingsbury signed with the Cardinals — who paid the coach’s $150,000 buyout to USC — the following day.

Maccagnan — who was fired on May 15 — declined comment when reached for this story. Johnson and Heimerdinger (also fired this month) couldn’t be reached for comment. The Jets declined multiple requests for comment.

ohnson’s interest in Kingsbury was fueled, in part, by TV personality/sideline reporter Peter Schrager, according to sources. (Schrager broke the news on January 8 that Kingsbury was going to be Arizona’s next head coach).

The News reported last week that Schrager’s name surfaced during internal discussions about the team’s GM search in the wake of Maccagnan’s ouster. The Jets also told people that they felt comfortable turning to Schrager, who is a close friend of the Jets CEO, as a resource for opinions, suggestions or ideas if needed.

So, the fact that Schrager, who attended Johnson’s wedding last summer, had influence on the acting owner’s head coaching search shouldn’t be surprising.

Schrager, who didn’t return several requests for comment, said on television last week that he had yet to be contacted by the Jets regarding assistance on the GM search.

Adam Gase has been running the GM search. The head coach has personally reached out to each candidate to make his pitch, sources said. Gase’s role is similar to Charley Casserly from the last search, minus the consultant fee. Johnson will have to sign off on Gase’s preferred choice.

It’s fair for prospective general manager candidates to wonder what they’re walking into on One Jets Drive.

Christopher Johnson’s recklessness, Gase’s savvy and the reality that nobody knows what will happen when owner Woody Johnson returns from his appointment as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom as early as 2020 is enough to give anyone cause for concern.

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1 minute ago, Ohio State NY Jets fan said:

So, the fact that Schrager, who attended Johnson’s wedding last summer, had influence on the acting owner’s head coaching search shouldn’t be surprising.

Schrager, who didn’t return several requests for comment, said on television last week that he had yet to be contacted by the Jets regarding assistance on the GM search.

Shrager said it was nonsense, he never spoke to anyone.  Love adding the "yet" to the claim, as if theres a plan to talk.

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Sounds like how all teams carry out their business ... what's supposed to be the big deal here? :confused:

Are the Jets the only team that has "secret" meetings about their future? Are they supposed to have these in public somehow??

As an aside ... I love how Bowles "insisted" that Johnson made his decision known straight after the last game. Or else ... what? He'd quit?? Be upset??

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4 minutes ago, mrcoops said:

Owner of team decides to fire crappy head coach and GM, seeks replacements.  That's the essence of it.

The rest of it is just Mehta's tantrum, as he stamps his little feet and pounds his little fists in frustration at being frozen out.

Agreed. Not much to this. However this is where you’d prefer a President of Football ops making these moves rather than the inexperienced owner.

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I feel bad for him because with that kind of title you'd think he just uncovered Watergate. Instead it's just a couple of dudes drinking wine in a fancy apartment (at least that's where I stopped reading). 

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53 minutes ago, KRL said:

Whatever!!!  If Mehta truly had "inside info" he wouldn't have called out Pauline and said
his report was 200% false.  If Johnson made some behind the scenes calls to prospective 
candidates good for him, he's the owner.  That type of stuff happens everyday in all types
of businesses not just sports

Exactly.  Mehta has zero credibility going forward after making that call “200% False”.

If anything the Johnson’s should be castigated for being “too nice”, not for being accused as being cut-throat for finally, finally, FINALLY (I could go on) bringing to an end the very unfortunate employment of 2 very incompetent men who should have never been hired in the first place.  The saddest part was how quickly their incompetence became evident and how long the fan base was subjected to it.  The Johnson’s will have paid both of them for 6 YEARS when they both deserved no more than 1. These are 2 Lottery ticket winners.

What the hell is this article trying to say?  That the Jets should have been forced to keep Bowles even longer?

Look at his body of “work”.  About 25 years in coaching, at least 95% of it as a lowly assistant on MULTIPLE teams.  Why didn’t all these teams he worked for see the potential “greatness”?

But one thing I’m quite sure of.  Bowles has some serious juice with the muckety mucks of the NFL. He’s protected.  No one even wants to ever criticize the guy.  That’s off limits.

The only reason he has been hired for 2 DC jobs is because his close friend Arians hires him.  The guy has no ability to plan, to strategize, to make adjustments, to “think on his feet”...the exact same “attributes” as that moron Maccagnan.

 

 

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1 hour ago, sourceworx said:

So the owner was quietly trying to get a head start on finding a new head coach while the old coach was still in the building. Oh no! What an incompetent buffoon!

 

Really, that appears to be what the basis is. It actually makes me feel better. they were, for once, trying to work ahead of the curve. I still feel that they are very dysfunctional in reporting structure, but this made me feel one iota better.

Hey Manish, note, when you are ultimately released from the DN, your replacement will already be in tow.

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1 hour ago, Joe W. Namath said:

More jet fans hanging on mehtas every word.  Awesome!

Be careful, when you point out the near-clinical obsession of Jets Fans to the NY Sports Media and the NY Giants, the negreps are soon to flow....

One reason I'm glad I'm a Jets Fan not in NY.  I could care less about the Giants or Mehta or Francessa.  It's obvious what their shtick is, why let it bother you so, right?

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