Joe Douglas – the Eagles’ vice president of player personnel, the man who, in teaming with Howie Roseman, helped construct the franchise’s first Super Bowl-winning team – is considered the front-runner to become the next general manager of the New York Jets. And even someone with merely a passing interest in professional football could come up with a good reason or two that he ought to take the job.
There are just 32 such positions in the NFL, as we hear all the time, and Douglas would, theoretically, have measures of power and control with the Jets that he doesn’t have with the Eagles.
He already has a professional relationship with Jets coach Adam Gase, who is serving as the team’s acting GM in the wake of the firing of Mike Maccagnan on Wednesday; Douglas and Gase worked together in 2015, with the Chicago Bears. And though Douglas is respected and appreciated here for his work with the Eagles, he would be regarded as an immortal in New York if he were to shepherd the Jets to the same level of greatness, given that they have not reached, let alone won, a Super Bowl in 50 years.
Again, sound arguments all, and plenty of them. But Douglas still shouldn’t take the job, because the big reason not to take it overrides everything else:
These are the Jets.
Look, there are franchises that go years, decades, even generations between championships yet still manage, generally speaking, to remain competitive and function competently.
The Flyers, for instance, haven’t won a Stanley Cup since 1975, and while some misguided thinking and decision-making has contributed to that drought, so has some bad luck and bad timing. One has to acknowledge that, over those 44 years, the Flyers had several seasons in which they could have and probably should have won a championship. No one has regarded them as a permanent abject disaster.
The Jets were, have been, and are one now under the ownership of the Johnson family – first Woody, now his brother Christopher, the franchise’s CEO. Everyone knows it, and take it from someone who covered them for two years: Sometimes you need to experience the ineptitude to believe it.
Consider, as an example, one brief period in their pockmarked history. After the 2011 season, when they lost their final three games to finish 8-8 and miss the playoffs, the Jets appeared uncertain about their starting quarterback, Mark Sanchez – so uncertain that they made a pitch to free agent Peyton Manning.
But once Manning chose to sign with the Denver Broncos, the Jets made a strange pair of decisions. They extended Sanchez’s contract, guaranteeing him more money and structuring the contact in a way that all but assured he would be their starting quarterback for the 2012 and 2013 seasons. Then, they traded for Tim Tebow, which appeared to reaffirm their initial doubts about Sanchez. If there was a strategy, it was incoherent.
By acquiring Tebow, the Jets got the attention they wanted. Over three weeks of training camp in Cortland, N.Y., ESPN correspondent Sal Paolantonio did 111 live shots for SportsCenter related, in one way or another, to Tebow, and at times, the team’s handling of the situation could be farcical. The Jets allowed media members to observe and write about practices -- except when Tebow was at quarterback and the Jets were using him in the Wildcat formation.
As reporters tried to watch practice, the dozens of Jets players who weren’t involved in the play formed a wall in front of them, shuffling up and down the sideline like a colossal centipede, obstructing the reporters’ view.
That scene sounds harmless and even humorous, but it was actually pretty revealing about the team’s culture under then-coach Rex Ryan and, in turn, under the Johnsons. Imagine Bill Belichick – imagine even a players’ coach such as Doug Pederson or an owner such as Jeffrey Lurie – allowing such a display of immature behavior and misplaced priorities.
To the Jets, the show mattered more than the substance. They went 6-10 in 2012. Woody Johnson fired GM Mike Tannenbaum. The team released Tebow the following April. It was a mess, and for what?
“Selling seats, man,” Sanchez said one day at his locker. “Selling seats.”
Nothing has changed in the years since. The Jets used a headhunting firm, Korn Ferry, to find Tannenbaum’s replacement, John Idzik, a measured, cautious personality who was perhaps the worst possible option to pair with the blustery, impatient Ryan. Both Idzik and Ryan were fired less than two years later, but at least the partnership lasted that long.
Gase, whose career head coaching record is a less-than-robust 23-25, needed just four months to overthrow Maccagnan after denying he was in any conflict with Maccagnan. No matter what kind of relationship he might have with Gase, wouldn’t Douglas have to worry about -- shall we say -- trust issues if he were to work with Gase again?
You look at that chaos, at an eight-year stretch in which the Jets have had five seasons of 10 losses or more, one winning season, and zero playoff appearances, and you wonder why anything would be different.