Mike Maccagnan scanned his office, knowing that time was of the essence.
He couldn't risk his wife catching him in the act, so he quickly discarded the incriminating evidence and prepared for her arrival. He then played it cool, hoping she would be none the wiser.
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"I looked around my desk, and I had a couple cups of coffee and I quickly threw them out. I did, I did," the Jets general manager said with a laugh, recalling his wife's visit from their home in Houston to the team's practice facility last week.
Coffee cups have become his Florham Park trademark, another distinctive feature to go along with his rimless eyeglasses, his easy-going demeanor and modulated tone. Wherever he is, coffee is by his side.
Well, except last week, when the Mrs. came to visit. "When I was walking out to practice that day, I didn't have anything in my hand," he said during a sit-down interview with Newsday Thursday morning. "I think I grabbed a water or something."
Maccagnan has been married to Betty for 21 years. They met while she was working and going to school part-time and he was a front-office executive for the since-disbanded Ottawa Rough Riders of the Canadian Football League.
Betty's his biggest cheerleader and his health-conscious confidante. "She's the love of my life," Maccagnan proudly said.
But there's one thing his true love would love to see him do away with: his excessive consumption of coffee.
"We have Dunkin Donuts here -- on tap -- so that's really cool," Maccagnan said, smiling.
A SCOUT'S BEST FRIEND
His coffee-drinking habits were born out of necessity, a means to end for a longtime college scout on the road most of the year. Caffeine aided him on countless late-night drives across states, and it helped him stay up even longer as he typed up scouting reports.
Now as a GM, he finds himself indulging more during stressful periods of the NFL season, like the draft and free agency.
Betty's loving reminders to live a healthier lifestyle have become a recurring theme over the past two decades. But it's all in good fun. So how long has she been trying to get her husband to cut back on his caffeine intake? "Let's see, we've been married 21 years, so probably about 21 years -- nah, I'm just joking," said Maccagnan, the Texans' former director of college scouting. "Probably within the last year. She definitely wants me to do healthier things, in general."
That, of course, is easier said than done.
MAKE IT A DOUBLE
Adjusting to life as a first-time GM isn't easy. But the past few weeks have presented issues Maccagnan never could have anticipated just seven months into the job. The organization is bracing for the expected fallout from Sheldon Richardson's recent arrest, which came on the heels of his four-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy. But last week's locker-room incident in which Geno Smith got punched and had his jaw broken took the Jets' history of off-the-field drama to new heights.
Maccagnan, however, has taken it all in stride.
Clad in his typical training-camp attire -- a green collared Jets shirt, khaki shorts and white sneakers -- he took a seat at one of the circular white tables in the second-floor employee cafeteria at 1 Jets Drive. In his hand, of course, was a cup of coffee. His initials, "MM" and the word "skim" were written in red ink on the cup.
"You're going to get me in so much trouble with my wife," he joked, noting that it's his first cup of the day. But he quickly admitted "it's a double" -- a skim latte with black coffee mixed in.
His greenish eyes look fatigued, but he insisted he's fine. "Really?" he asked. "No, I'm just very comfortable and relaxed. I probably sleep about six hours a night, maybe less."
He divulged that he has a cup of coffee with him "almost all the time."
And though he rarely drinks it at home on the weekends, he estimated he has about "four, at the minimum, to 10 or 12" cups at at the office. "I'll have some crazy long days and I'll probably drink more," he said.
He's tried other tricks, like opting for a green tea to break up his day. But glorious coffee remains his go-to. "I drink a lot of lattes . . . I know Brian Cushing dissed all latte drinkers on [HBO's] 'Hard Knocks,'" Maccagnan said, referring to the Texans linebacker's on-air quip that only "a chick" would go to Starbucks.
Has he thought about retaliating?
"No, I'm not going to text him. I'm not going to do anything to him or his Facebook," the Jets GM said, laughing, before getting right back to the issue at hand.
"But no, I drink lattes. I drink everything. Generally, I like it black if I don't have a latte."
Occasionally, he'll try hazelnut coffee ("But not the syrup-flavor kind").
"No sugar. No sugar."
Any java-inducing jitters?
"I have very low blood pressure. Genetic, I guess. I think I probably drink so much it doesn't affect me. I mean, I don't feel it affecting me. I can have a cup of coffee at night and fall asleep no big deal."
"No, no, no. I am strictly coffee. That's my only vice."
Every morning, a Jets staffer brings in coffee for several employees, Maccagnan included.
Usually he arrives between 6:30 and 7:30 a.m., but on this particular Thursday, he was running a bit behind schedule. His wife was due to arrive that afternoon. And when he got to the facility, his special treat was waiting for him on his desk.
"A lot of people in the office get coffee, I don't want to make it sound like they just cater to me only," he said.
Despite the power he wields behind closed doors, the Jets GM is down-to-earth, completely unassuming and alarmingly genial with the media. He puts on no airs, nor does he profess to know it all. And the mere thought of being viewed on a pedestal makes him extremely uncomfortable.
"Somebody, very nicely, every once in a while, will put it on my desk if I'm running a little late," he said. " . . . I don't want to sound like a coffee dictator or something like that. I'm not like that. I'm very low maintenance."
Maccagnan's coffee habits were "a running joke" in Houston, but it never piqued anyone's interest outside the Texans organization. But as the face of the Jets front office, he's a recognizable figure and the embodiment of a clean slate and a fresh start for the franchise. And, naturally, his affection for coffee has become fodder for worshipping Jets fans.
He's easy to spot on the practice field each day -- just look for the tall guy with the white-colored coffee cup. And when he's making the rounds on the sidelines, engaging beat writers in earnest conversations about life, hobbies and music, he's doing so with a Cup o' Joe in hand.
(Maccagnan's favorite band is "The Replacements." He also likes grunge music, believe it or not.)
And when the Hightstown, New Jersey native turned 48 earlier this month, the Jets wished him a "Happy Birthday" on Twitter with a postcard featuring seven different snapshots of Maccagnan holding a cup of coffee -- including a side-by-side pose of him with "Game of Thrones" creator George R.R. Martin after practice two weeks ago.
But as confused as Maccagnan is by all the attention his coffee habits have garnered, he's amused nonetheless.
After more than 20 minutes of chit-chatting in the employee cafeteria, however, another crisis has arisen. "It's a little cool," Maccagnan said, staring down at his coffee.
But being the "eco-friendly" guy that he is, tossing out the lukewarm beverage isn't an option. Said Maccagnan: "I'll probably just add some regular coffee to it."