Joe Douglas still looks as if he could play. Tall and wide, he hasn’t departed too much from the type of build that defines an offensive lineman, the position he played in college. And from a distance, as he spoke to center Ryan Kalil on Saturday, they looked like two teammates in the midst of a jovial discussion, not a new player chatting with his boss.
In much the same way, Douglas continued to demonstrate his multi-faceted skill set. He coaxed Kalil out of retirement — a creative and necessary move for Douglas, 42, who was hired after the Jets’ free-agent signings and the draft, which were under the care of departed general manager Mike Maccagnan. He spoke of his relationship with Adam Gase, which dates to 2015, when both were with the Bears. He’s been a scout but still appears to relate to athletes in a way a former player can. And there’s one other pivotal facet: Douglas knows what a winning team looks like, thanks to Super Bowls with the Ravens and Eagles. It’s clear it’s something he wants to replicate here.
“The locker room in Philadelphia, unbelievably tight, and I think that’s been one of the focuses for Adam is we’re trying to connect and build relationships with the players,” Douglas said.
“But also the players are trying to make connections and build relationships, and you have to have a tight locker room to win because every year, every week, you’re going to face adversity in this league, and if you don’t have a tight locker room, if you go a month in October and you don’t score a touchdown like the 2000 Ravens did, it’s an opportunity for the locker room to splinter, and when you have a tight locker room, there’s no obstacle that’s too big, so you have to have a tight locker room.”
That was one reason he brought in Kalil — really, Douglas’ first big move as general manager. Though there will be questions about Kalil’s durability — he was retired, after all, and before playing every game in 2018, he played a combined 14 games the previous two seasons. But he’s a former Pro Bowler and played in a couple of Super Bowls.
Douglas made it clear that he wants Kalil to pick up where Josh McCown left off in his tutelage of Sam Darnold. He agreed when he was asked if this is an example of the out-of-the-box thinking the Jets will need to engage in. He still needs more depth at cornerback, and that likely could require another creative solution.
“It could be viewed that way because obviously Ryan chose to come here from retirement,” Douglas said. “But as far as avenues of improving this team, we’re definitely going to look at every available avenue we can, and this was one. It was a unique opportunity with an unbelievable person and player.”
Gase, who was the Bears’ offensive coordinator when Douglas was the team’s director of college scouting, praised his new GM’s openness.
“He’s very organized,” Gase said. “He’s very direct. He’s done a great job as far as getting everybody on the same page. When things come up, there’s a line of communication that it seems like nobody is caught off guard with anything. It’s gone extremely smooth, coming in this late and being able to do all that. It’s worked out well for us.”
Granted, it’s very early, and the Jets still are a group of disparate parts that haven’t won big in a very long time.
“I think a lot of it just had to do with the energy, the energy around the team,” Douglas said, reflecting on what makes a Super Bowl-winning team. “The energy out here has been unbelievable, and I think when you have a guy with the energy that a coach like Adam Gase brings, you see these guys out here competing every day, you can’t help but get excited.”