NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — In a surprising move, the New York Jets threw their front office into disarray on Wednesday by firing general manager Mike Maccagnan.
Head coach Adam Gase was named interim GM. The Jets reportedly also fired VP of Player Personnel Brian Heimerdinger.
“This morning, I informed Mike that he was being relieved of his duties as general manager of the team, effective immediately,” Jets Chairman and CEO Christopher Johnson said. “Mike helped to execute the strategic vision of the organization during the last four seasons and especially the past few months. However, I came to the decision to make a change after much thought and a careful assessment of what would be in the best long-term interests of the New York Jets.
“I will start a search for our new general manager immediately. In the interim, Coach Gase will be the acting general manager. I would like to thank Mike for his time and efforts during his tenure, and I wish only the best for him and his wife, Betty,” Johnson added.
ESPN quickly reported that Joe Douglas, the Philadelphia Eagles’ vice president of player personnel, is the early favorite for the GM position and is close with Gase.
Maccagnan, who had two years left on his contract, was under considerable pressure this offseason to change the Jets’ losing ways. New York has not made the postseason since the 2010 season and was a combined 14-34 over the past three seasons. Maccagnan appeared to be on his way to turning things around after making a huge trade to move to No. 3 in last year’s draft and then selecting potential franchise starting quarterback Sam Darnold.
Though the Jets finished 5-11 with a roster largely devoid of talent in 2018, the veteran executive was having by most accounts a good offseason, as evidenced by his trade for stud offensive lineman Kelechi Osemele and the signing of running back Le’Veon Bell, linebacker C.J. Mosley and wide receiver Jamison Crowder, among others, in free agency.
Maccagnan also landed Alabama defensive lineman Quinnen Williams with the No. 3 pick in the recently completed draft, a player many insiders rated as the best talent in the entire draft. In previous years, Maccagnan drafted defensive end Leonard Williams and safety Jamal Adams, who are now two of the franchise’s more indispensable players.
That’s not to say that Maccagnan didn’t have his warts as an executive. For example, cornerback Darrelle Revis’ second stint with the Jets, after signing a five-year, $70 million contract with $39 million guaranteed in March of 2015, ended with the future Pro Football Hall of Famer released after just two seasons. While Maccagnan did well in the first round of the draft overall, his later rounds were largely poor, which contributed to the team’s seemingly constant lack of depth.
Only 12 of the 22 players selected in his first three years are still on New York’s roster. The first-rounders have been starters — Adams, Darron Lee (2016) and Leonard Williams (2015) — but Lee’s role appears uncertain with the Jets having Mosley and Avery Williamson at the inside linebacker spots. He has also been the subject of trade rumors.
Several other early round picks have been busts. Second-rounders Devin Smith (2015) and Christian Hackenberg (2016), and third-rounders Lorenzo Mauldin (2015) and ArDarius Stewart (2017) are all out of the league.
The draft-day misses landed Maccagnan squarely on the hot seat, and now the Jets will move forward with someone else making the personnel decisions.
There had been rumors of a rift between Maccagnan and Gase, presumably over the Jets’ current personnel, but the team repeatedly denied there was an issue.
“If everybody just agreed on everything, it would be boring,” Gase said last week about any disagreements he may have had with Maccagnan. “You need to have a little excitement every once in a while.”
Gase will oversee all roster moves as the Jets enter the next phase of the offseason with organized team activities set to begin next week. During his three seasons as coach of the Dolphins, in which he went 23-25, Gase had final say on personnel decisions. He’ll now have the same authority with the Jets — at least until they hire a general manager.
When he was introduced as New York’s coach in January, Gase downplayed his power, saying it was “just kind of how it worked out in Miami” and that he “didn’t even ask” for a similar setup when the Jets hired him.
“I just knew coming in here, it was going to be a team effort to make sure that I do my part, which is coach the team, and do everything I can to help bring in good players,” Gase said at his introductory news conference. “And when my opinion was asked, give my opinion. That’s what you’re looking for. You’re looking for that kind of collaboration.”
In New York, the coach and general manager report directly to Johnson, a unique structure in the NFL. Most teams have the coach report directly to the GM, who then reports to the owner. Johnson, however, has insisted that that’s the structure he believes works best and will likely remain in place when the Jets hire Maccagnan’s replacement.
Under Maccagnan, the Jets were 24-40 with no playoff appearances in four seasons. The team’s only winning season in that span came in the first year for Maccagnan and Bowles in 2015, when New York was 10-6 but fell a win short of making the postseason.
(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)