NEW YORK (AP) — Mike Maccagnan helped lead the Jets’ coaching search this offseason, spent big money in free agency and oversaw the team’s draft.
Now, stunningly, he’s out as New York’s general manager.
Team chairman and CEO Christopher Johnson announced the decision to fire Maccagnan in a statement posted Wednesday on the team’s Twitter account. Coach Adam Gase will serve as the acting general manager in Maccagnan’s place while the Jets search for a replacement.
“This morning, I informed Mike that he was being relieved of his duties as general manager of the team, effective immediately,” Johnson said in the statement. “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.”
The timing is particularly strange because Maccagnan ran the Jets’ draft less than three weeks ago, including taking defensive tackle Quinnen Williams with the No. 3 overall pick. There were some rumors, however, that there was tension between Maccagnan and Gase — which both denied.
Gase was irritated by the suggestion there were problems between the two when asked about the reports, saying last Friday: “I don’t know who decides to put that stuff out there. It kind of pisses me off a little bit. We have discussions on everything.”
ESPN reported that Brian Heimerdinger, the Jets’ vice president of player personnel, was also fired as part of the team’s front office shake-up.
Maccagnan, who was hired as GM in 2015, had two years remaining on his contract, which was extended at the end of the 2017 season. He was not relieved of his duties this past offseason when coach Todd Bowles was fired — leading many to assume that Maccagnan’s job was not in jeopardy.
He was fully involved in the coaching search and hiring Gase to replace Bowles. Maccagnan was also active in free agency in March, spending more than $125 million to land the likes of running back Le’Veon Bell , linebacker C.J. Mosley and wide receiver Jamison Crowder. He also acquired left guard Kelechi Osemele from Oakland in a trade.
The Jets also have what they believe is a franchise quarterback in place in Sam Darnold, who was the third overall pick in last year’s draft after Maccagnan engineered a deal with Indianapolis to move up from the No. 6 spot. Safety Jamal Adams and defensive lineman Leonard Williams are also recent draft picks by Maccagnan who have become building blocks for the defense. Starting wide receiver Robby Anderson was also a terrific find as an undrafted free agent in 2016.
But Maccagnan’s draft history since coming to New York after 15 years in various scouting positions with the Houston Texans is otherwise shaky, at best.
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 Williams (2015) — but Lee’s role appears uncertain with the Jets having Mosley and Avery Williamson at the inside linebacker spots. Lee 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.
Eagles vice president of player personnel Joe Douglas is believed to be a primary candidate to replace Maccagnan. Douglas and Gase have previous working experience: Douglas was Chicago’s director of college scouting in 2015, when Gase was the Bears’ offensive coordinator.
In the meantime, 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, 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.
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