New York Jets  

 

Mike Maccagnan's firing brings 'Same Old Jets' moniker to focus

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Sometimes the sound of the calliope fades in Florham Park and is distant enough that it is possible to believe the circus has finally left town for the New York Jets.

It was easy to think that this time, as the voices of playoff prognostication slowly replaced the howls of despair for fans of Gang Green. A young, promising quarterback was in the fold. More than $200 million had been spent in free agency, on a premier running back, an outstanding linebacker, an ideal slot receiver. The 2019 NFL Draft had netted what may have been the best player in the draft -- Quinnen Williams. The tear-down that Mike Maccagnan was hired to engineer was complete, and the rebuild was well underway. That was hope you spotted on the horizon.

But for some teams, dysfunction is like a magnet that never stops providing a force field. And on Wednesday, the Jets smashed into it like, say, a quarterback crashing into his offensive lineman's butt.

Cleaning house is a rite of the NFL offseason. But firing the general manager after he oversaw the hiring of a new head coach, spent a fortune in free agency and ran the draft, as the Jets did in axing Maccagnan, suggests that -- well -- Bill Belichick had the right idea when he surveyed the landscape nearly 20 years ago, scribbled his resignation as head coach of the New York Jets and got the hell out of town.

This is an entirely different franchise from that one, of course, even down to the owner -- Woody Johnson is an ambassador in Great Britain now. But as much as the Jets bristle at the moniker so often attached to their franchise -- "Same Old Jets" -- it is inescapable when they repeatedly stumble down the same path to disarray.

It was Woody's brother Christopher who on Wednesday suddenly handed the keys to the kingdom to coach Adam Gase -- on the job for all of four months before he was allowed to burn down the building and, at least temporarily, assume as much power as Belichick has in New England. Gase's career head-coaching record: 23-25.

Rumors of a rift between Gase and Maccagnan have been circulating for a few months now, which is why it's fair to resurrect the question first raised when the Jets fired Todd Bowles at the end of the 2018 season: Why go halfway? Bowles and Maccagnan were hired together four years ago, and whatever successes (one, a winning record in 2011) and failures (a lot, including three straight losing seasons) they had, they had together. The roster was bad, the coaching no better. If they deserved to finish the rebuild, they deserved it together. If they didn't, they should have been shown the door simultaneously.

The problem with Maccagnan's firing is not that it happened. It is that it happened now, after all of the most significant offseason personnel moves have already been made, and what it says about the team's big-picture leadership.

The trade to move into position to draft Darnold saved Maccagnan for a few extra months, but it likely set the Jets back even further. After all, a general manager trying to save his job and a head coach just starting a new one have entirely different priorities.

If Gase disagreed with how Maccagnan was allocating the money -- particularly for running back Le'Veon Bell and linebacker C.J. Mosley, as NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported -- you have to ask how a difference in priorities and vision that significant was not explored during the coaching interview process. How did ownership make the critical decision to hire Gase without knowing that Maccagnan and Gase were not fully in alignment on how they would approach one of the most important offseasons in the franchise's recent history?

Bad teams stay bad for a number of reasons. This is one of them. The Jets have now given two consecutive general managers a mandate to tear down a roster and rebuild it, but given neither of them the chance to complete the job.

John Idzik and Maccagnan made more than enough missteps to justify their firings. But bad teams don't get better by constantly shifting directions and shaking up priorities. It makes laughable the idea that the Jets may be gaining ground on the New England Patriots.

Ultimately, if the dysfunction was so great in the Jets' headquarters, it is better to make a move now rather than waiting through another season. And maybe the next personnel executive to arrive -- he will surely be Gase's choice -- will be the one to finally settle the Jets down.

But we say that every few years around here, and nothing much changes. The Jets are about to hire their sixth general manager after already hiring their sixth head coach since Belichick fled north. This palace coup has revived a familiar tune, and the big top has been pitched. It's up to the Jets to convince us that the clowns are not already here.

Follow Judy Battista on Twitter @judybattista.

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