The New York Jets are one of most dysfunctional teams in pro sports. They seem to just float through seasons, never quite good enough to charm or contend.
They haven’t played for the NFL championship since Super Bowl III in 1969, a game best remembered for the pregame bravado displayed by Joe Namath.
You might recall the Kodak moment: Namath lounging poolside in Miami, chatting up reporters who were probably chain smoking Camels while soaking in his prediction that the Jets would beat the Baltimore Colts.
That pretty much summarizes the team’s history. The last 50 years have been a nightmare, spiced up by only 12 playoff appearances since 1969 (none since 2010), two division championships and four conference championship games.
After winning just 14 games over the last three seasons, it appeared Jets fans had some reason to feel confident about the 2019 season. They drafted Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams and signed running back Le’Veon Bell. They introduced new sleek uniforms.
Then on Wednesday, they acted like the Jets again by firing general manager Mike Maccagnan and naming first-year coach Adam Gase as interim GM. The Jets also jettisoned Brian Heimerdinger, the VP of player development.
This development may have caught everyone across the league by surprise, but it was foretold for those within the organization. Gase and Maccagnan were feuding about personnel. And that’s true despite what Jets CEO Christopher Johnson said in March about how happy he was with the way Maccagnan and Gase were getting along.
From the looks of things, Maccagnan finally seemed to have the Jets headed in the right direction. But Johnson obviously did not share that opinion.
“There’s never a good time to do this,” Johnson said. “This is about more than one draft or one free agency, even two. As I educated myself about this process, it became more clear to me, the deeper I got in this building, that it was time for a change and a time to move on.”
So now, the Jets start all over amid rumors they may be looking at NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah to take a leading role in their new front office.
As you might expect in circumstances like this, there apparently was a serious rift between Maccagnan and Gase, the man he hired to replace Todd Bowles, who was fired after four seasons. It had to do with personnel during the free agent period.
“If everybody just agreed on everything, it would be boring,” Gase said recently “You need to have a little excitement every once in a while.”
The Jets were big spenders. They guaranteed $120 million to four players, Bell, C.J. Mosley, Henry Anderson and Jamison Crowder. But this did not solve the personality crisis.
Johnson soon became aware his GM and coach were not getting along and that a lot of it had to do with the contract (four years, $52.2 million) given to Bell. Gase thought they paid Bell more than he was worth.
“No, this had nothing to do with Adam,” Johnson said Wednesday. “Look, I want a good give-and-take between the coach and GM. This was not one person or another winning a power struggle. This was completely my decision.
“It was a decision that evolved and it took a while. Maybe I was slow at that decision, but I finally came to it in the last few days.”
In announcing the firing, Johnson said he had no problem with the money spent on free agents this winter.
“No, no, I’m totally good with that,” he said. “No remorse at all. I approved them all.”
What he did admit was he might have overestimated how well Gase and Maccagnan were getting along. And his explanation came with a stinging indictment of the GM.
“I think there was pretty good synergy, but it was not everything I was hoping for,” Johnson said. “I made the decision that I want to find a better fit for this building. … It’s more than a talent-evaluation guy. I want a great strategic thinker, a great manager, a communicator, someone who can collaborate well with the building. I’m convinced we’re going to find that person.”
The Maccagnan draft scoreboard featured some big hits and misses. The highlights were the selection of Pro Bowlers Jamal Adams, a strong safety, and defensive lineman Leonard Williams. He took Darnold third overall last season. But other picks, such as linebacker Darron Lee (2016) and QB Christian Hackenberg fizzled. In fact, the first thing Gase did Wednesday was deal Lee to the Kansas City Chiefs.
“This is a learning process for me too,” Johnson said. “I’m going to get some things right. I’m going to get some things wrong. But I think I’m getting this right.”
And that would be a big change for his organization which usually can’t tell its right from its left.