Another failed season, another impending coach firing and another imminent hiring.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
It has been an endless cycle for the Jets, who are once again at a crossroads as they attempt to re-set the team in hopes of creating a playoff contender and a group that can win a Super Bowl for the first time in more than half a century.
There is a viable solution this time, something that can end this madness once and for all. We’ll get to it in a minute, but we set the stage thusly:
Adam Gase will coach his final game with the Jets on Sunday against another former Jets’ coach, one who might have been the answer for this wayward franchise but who knew almost exactly 20 years ago at this time that this team wasn’t for him. Bill Belichick was coach of the Jets for less than a day before he decided to spurn erstwhile GM Bill Parcells and pursue his career in New England.
That the Jets face the Patriots in the regular season finale on Sunday is yet another reminder of how futile the team’s coach searches have been in the two decades since. In the time that Belichick has been the Patriots’ coach, he has won six Super Bowl championships and produced a Hall of Fame resume.
The Jets? They have gone through Al Groh, Herman Edwards, Eric Mangini, Rex Ryan, Todd Bowles and now Gase. The best they’ve done is two trips to the AFC Championship Game under Ryan, three playoff runs during a redeemable Edwards run that was much better in hindsight, and another in Mangini’s first season.
And they have tried virtually every conceivable way to hire a coach:
• Woody Johnson took up Parcells’ suggestion to hire Terry Bradway as GM, and Bradway brought in Edwards.
• Johnson and Bradway successor Mike Tannenbaum signed off on Mangini and then Ryan.
• A corporate search firm recommended John Idzik as Tannenbaum’s replacement, but that two-year alliance with Ryan went up in flames.
• Johnson then tried consultants, Hall of Fame general manager Ron Wolf and Super Bowl winning GM Charley Casserly, who ushered in the Bowles-Mike Maccagnan partnership that produced just one winning season from 2015-18.
• And Christopher Johnson, filling in during Woody’s tenure as U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom, went with Gase over Kliff Kingsbury, Matt Rhule and Mike McCarthy. The decision may have been swayed in part by a phone call from Peyton Manning, who had worked with Gase in Denver and gave the coach his blessing for the Jets’ job.
• Even before Gase coached his first game last year, Johnson cut bait with Maccagnan and brought in Joe Douglas as GM.
And here we are.
And here is how it can be fixed:
The 2-13 Jets will finish off one of the most calamitous seasons in franchise history, nearly matching the 1-15 debacle of 1996. But they even failed at failure; had they gone winless this season, they’d have assured themselves a shot at Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, an elite talent who might have transformed the Jets into winners alongside a new coach.
Johnson – and perhaps also his brother, depending on the eventual end date of Woody’s ambassadorship – will now oversee the hiring process at one of the most critical times in franchise history.
It is a decision that will reveal whether the rebuilding process that Douglas began with his sweeping roster overhaul – up to and including the trade of Pro Bowl safety Jamal Adams – can turn the team’s fortunes in the right direction. Or whether the next coach will be just another name on a revolving door of those who have come and gone and left with little or nothing to show for it.
There are quality candidates out there: Offensive coordinators Eric Bieniemy (Kansas City), Greg Roman (Baltimore) and Brian Daboll (Buffalo) will almost certainly get head coaching jobs in this next cycle. Defensive coordinators Robert Saleh (San Francisco), Don "Wink" Martindale (Baltimore) and Leslie Frazier (Buffalo) will get strong consideration. Former Ohio State and Florida coach Urban Meyer may be surveying the NFL landscape (although the New York market is not the place for him). The Jim Harbaugh-back-to-the-NFL speculation persists.
And while the Johnsons will have final say over the next coach, it’s in their best interests to let someone else decide this all-important hire.
This one must be up to Douglas.
His personnel moves have set the Jets up well in the next two drafts, the team will be flush with salary cap money in 2021 and 2022, although there might be less to spend this off-season because of reduced revenues due to COVID-19. And Douglas has already made enough smart moves in less than two years on the job – his drafting of tackle Mekhi Becton, wide receiver Denzel Mims and safety Ashtyn Davis, and the trades that have netted him valuable draft capital.
Douglas needs to be paired with a coach who shares his vision of what is required to win, and there can be no interference with letting him make that choice. No phone calls from a soon-to-be Hall of Fame quarterback to muddle the decision.
Christopher Johnson made a sound choice in hiring Douglas. Now the owner has to let his general manager make the next move.
The move that will determine whether this team can finally get off this hamster wheel of hiring and firing coaches and bring in the right guy.