Christopher Johnson admitted the synergy between general manager Mike Maccagnan and coach Adam Gase wasn’t great. But the Jets chairman and CEO said that wasn’t the reason that he made the stunning decision to fire Maccagnan on Wednesday.
Johnson never really gave a specific reason for “firing Mike.” But He said after spending more time in scouting meetings and interviews at The Combine, and the overall day-to-day of the football operations department, he realized Maccagnan wasn’t the right man for the job.
“I think that there was pretty good synergy, but it was not everything I was hoping for,” Johnson said on a conference call. “I made the decision that I want to find a better fit for this building.
“Looking forward, not talking about Mike here, I want a great strategic thinker. 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 I’m going to find that person.”
Johnson appointed Gase acting general manager until the Jets hire one. He also said Gase will “assist” in finding Maccagnan’s replacement.
The Jets reportedly already have contacted Eagles vice president of player personnel Joe Douglas for their general manager’s vacancy. A source told Newsday that Douglas is a strong candidate for the job. He worked with Gase in Chicago.
Vice president of player personnel Brian Heimerdinger also was relieved of his duties. It’s possible the Jets could hire Douglas and NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah for the two vacancies. The two worked together in the Ravens scouting department.
Johnson said once the new GM is hired the reporting structure will remain the same: Both men will report directly to Johnson.
Maccagnan’s dismissal seemingly came out of nowhere. Johnson had said in March how happy he was with the job Maccagnan had done in free agency. But things changed quickly.
There had been rumblings of a rift between Maccagnan and Gase over some personnel decisions. Both men denied it. But this development, and Gase’s current role in the organization, certainly appears as if he won a power struggle over Maccagnan. But Johnson said that wasn’t the case.
“No,” Johnson said. “This had nothing to do with Adam. I want a good give-and-take between our GM and the coach. This was not one person or another winning a power struggle. This is completely my decision.”
When Johnson was asked what was missing in the synergy between Maccagnan and Gase, he replied, “I can’t get into this without talking more of my reasoning for firing Mike. I’m just not going to go there.”
The timing of this is puzzling and makes the Jets look like a dysfunctional franchise still after they’ve tried to change that narrative. This move only furthers it.
The Jets didn’t make the playoffs in Maccagnan’s four years as GM. But Johnson retained him after firing coach Todd Bowles in December. That would have been the time to do it.
Instead, he left Maccagnan, who has two years left on his contract, in charge of this critical offseason, including picking Gase to be the head coach four months ago.
“It was only through diving deep into the organization, it was only through going through this particular offseason deeply that I understood how this organization was lacking in certain ways,” Johnson said. “This isn’t a decision I could have made at the end of the season. I could with Todd. I could not with Mike.
“There’s no great time to make this decision but by diving deep into the organization I had a better idea of what was wrong and where I wanted to head with this because … this is a long-term plan. We’re trying to win football games. And I just felt we had to have a new GM to help us do that.”
Johnson took over control of the Jets two years ago from his brother Woody, who was appointed U.S. Ambassador to England. Christopher worked closely with Maccagnan before, but he said never this close.
“I was pretty deep but I went a lot deeper,” Johnson said. “This was a learning process for me, too. I’m going to get some things right. I’m going to get some things wrong. But I think I’m getting this right.”
Making it even more head scratching, Johnson said the Jets “did a great job” this the offseason with Maccagnan overseeing all transactions.
He doled out roughly $125 million in salaries to rebuild the team. He signed or acquired Pro-Bowl players Le’Veon Bell, C.J. Mosley and Kelechi Osemele.
There were reports that Maccagnan and Gase were at odds on some of those moves. Gase said it’s natural for a coach and general manager to have disagreements.
Maccagnan, whose draft history is filled with many busts, made six selections in this year’s draft, including taking Alabama nose tackle Quinnen Williams with the No. 3 pick.
Last year, Maccagnan made the trade with the Colts to move up to the No. 3 pick, where he selected quarterback Sam Darnold. The Jets believe he can be a franchise quarterback and can lead them deep into the postseason, particularly with Gase’s help.
The Jets hired Maccagnan in 2015 after he spent 15 years in the Houston Texans organization. The Jets went 10-6 in Maccagnan’s first season, but they were 14-34 the last three.
They are expected to make a jump this year after some of the improvements Maccagnan made to the roster. But he won’t be around to see it.
“This is more [than] about one draft or one free agency, even two,” Johnson said. “There were things 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 time to move on. And that’s what we’re doing.”
Four candidates to succeed Mike Maccagnan as Jets general manager:
Joe Douglas, Eagles VP of player personnel — Helped construct the Eagles’ Super Bowl LII championship roster. Previously worked for the Bears, where Adam Gase was offensive coordinator.
Daniel Jeremiah, NFL Network analyst — Former NFL scout who worked with Douglas in the Baltimore Ravens’ scouting department. Could be a part of a package deal if Douglas is hired as GM.
Champ Kelly, Bears assistant director of player personnel — Been with the Bears for four seasons after spending seven with the Broncos. Kelly’s time in both places overlapped with Gase.
Louis Riddick, NFL analyst, ESPN — Fomer NFL player, scout and pro personnel director could be a wild-card candidate. Giants interviewed Riddick before hiring GM Dave Gettleman.