Even the most successful coach-general manager partnerships become frayed over time, often resulting in divorce — some of them amicable, others not so much.
Ron Wolf and Mike Holmgren won a Super Bowl and went to another with the Packers in the 1990s, but Holmgren eventually wanted to make his own personnel decisions. He moved on to run the show in Seattle after an amicable parting of the ways.
Bill Parcells and George Young had a sometimes-contentious relationship in their eight years together with the Giants, an era that resulted in the franchise’s first two Super Bowl championships but also featured some combative moments before Parcells stepped down in 1991 for health reasons.
And Bill Cowher and Tom Donahoe of the Steelers often butted heads, to the point that Donahoe was ousted in a power play and replaced by Kevin Colbert, who remains the general manager today.
We may or may not be seeing a similar rift between Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan and recently named coach Adam Gase. But the fact that there already have been reports of friction between the two — barely three months after Gase was named Todd Bowles’ successor — certainly is reason to keep a close watch on their relationship moving forward.
There are no immediate indications that Jets chief executive officer Christopher Johnson plans to remove Maccagnan, and the general manager himself denied there were any issues beyond the normal disagreements that arise between a coach and the top personnel executive.
“Actually, I think Adam and I have worked very well together,” Maccagnan said Friday in addressing the speculation about his status. “I’m sure, like in any process, there are times where . . . you know, you work through the process.”
It is striking that there even would be speculation about problems between the two, given that it is so early in their relationship. But it is difficult to ignore the buzz, which includes former NFL general manager Michael Lombardi, now with The Athletic, suggesting that Maccagnan could be out after the draft.
“I don’t think I’m really going to sit here and comment on my job,” Maccagnan told reporters on Friday — Day 2 of the draft. “I’m focused on the draft. I feel good about the situation we’re in.”
He acknowledged the two have had differences of opinion, but not to the point that it has produced an unhealthy partnership.
“It’s just like in a scouting meeting. You might have different opinions on a player,” Maccagnan said. “But from my standpoint, I’ve actually had a very good working relationship with Adam. Quite frankly, as I’ve said before, he has a very good sense of humor. He makes me laugh quite a bit, which is one of the reasons why I like working with him.”
Gase hasn’t commented on the reports, and he likely won’t be available to reporters until the Jets bring in their rookies for an orientation in two weeks.
The situation certainly bears monitoring, especially after the Jets were confronted with an uncomfortable coach-GM dynamic during the recent Rex Ryan-John Idzik fiasco. The two got along quite well their first year together, but Ryan soon chafed under Idzik’s imperious style and both were fired after the 2014 season.
Woody Johnson, now the U.S. Ambassador to Britain, ended up selecting Maccagnan and Bowles upon the recommendation of consultants Charley Casserly and Wolf. Though disagreements popped up from time to time, theirs was a mostly harmonious relationship.
Gase is a strong-willed coach who will let his feelings be known, and there certainly will be differences of opinion over time. The coach reportedly was upset by the Jets’ signing of Le’Veon Bell to a four-year, $52 million contract; not so much with the signing itself, but with the amount of money they invested in the running back position, which has been devalued over time. If there indeed is frustration on Gase’s part about the contract, it certainly didn’t help that Bell was a no-show earlier in the week for the team’s voluntary minicamp — especially after he missed the entire 2018 season in a contract stalemate with the Steelers.
Gase publicly has lauded the signing of Bell and seemed excited at last month’s NFL spring meetings about how the running back’s versatility will benefit the Jets’ offense.
“I just feel like he’s the type of guy who’s going to help our offense, help our situation,” Gase said. “He’s a guy who can do multiple things. I think it’s hard to find running backs like that, and it’s hard to find guys that are that size with his ability. He’s a rare player.”
It was not a good look for Bell to miss the practices, even if they were voluntary. He needs to get back in football shape and get to know his teammates. And his coaches.
If there truly was disagreement between Gase and Maccagnan about Bell’s signing, then last week’s no-show was a see-what-I-mean moment for the coach.
It’s still very early in the process and very early in the Gase-Maccagnan relationship. But you’d figure the honeymoon period would last longer than this before speculation bubbled up about issues between the two.
Perhaps the conjecture is premature. Or maybe not.
There is a delicate balance to be struck here, and if problems already are surfacing, you can’t help but wonder if there will be more down the road. There are simply too many past examples of the coach-GM relationship coming unglued to ignore the possibility that the Gase-Maccagnan partnership will meet a similar fate.