Joe Douglas would reach the peak of his profession if he were to accept an offer to become the New York Jets’ new general manager.
He would have one of only 32 jobs with personnel authority over an NFL team. And he would have more money, more visibility, and one of the more secure positions, relatively speaking, in his chosen field.
But he would be taking a job in which there are few second chances. So he must choose wisely.
On Wednesday, the Jets fired Mike Maccagnan as their general manager – after they hired a new coach in January, after free agency, and after the draft. While it wasn’t an unprecedented move – the Bills did the same just two years ago – it was just another reason Douglas should question whether he should work for one of the more inept franchises in the NFL.
Douglas had been linked to the Jets even before Maccagnan’s unceremonious departure. Reports surfaced just before the draft that new coach Adam Gase wanted the GM out and that the Eagles’ vice president of player personnel would be the front-runner to fill the vacancy.
Those reports, despite denials from Gase, proved to be true. Maccagnan was axed and Douglas, per multiple reports, was at the top of the Jets’ list.
Many have noted that Gase and Douglas spent one calendar year together with the Bears when the former was offensive coordinator and the latter was director of college scouting. But to describe them as close, as several did, would be a stretch, according to sources close to the situation.
That doesn’t mean there won’t be a partnering. Douglas has long been viewed in league circles as a GM-in-waiting, particularly after the Eagles won the Super Bowl. And again, despite the possibility of having to work with a Chip Kelly clone and the incompetency of Jets ownership, there are far more reasons for accepting the job than not.
Can the Eagles make Douglas’ decision that much harder? Do they even want to? Owner Jeffrey Lurie and chief executive Howie Roseman have praised their head scout in recent interviews, but they’ve also downplayed his importance. He’s just one of many contributors has been a consistent theme in their responses over the last year.
A year before, Lurie called the May 2016 hiring of Douglas “the pivotal moment of the last year.” He knew that much of the fan base was skeptical about Roseman’s return to personnel and that bringing in the former longtime Ravens scout – a “football guy” – would help ease those concerns.
But since winning the Super Bowl, Lurie and Roseman have publicly downplayed Douglas’ influence. Some of the moves made since the 2017 offseason have suggested that his voice is no longer as prominent. And with Roseman’s penchant for trades, Douglas has had only 10 draft picks over the last two years.
The Eagles’ opinion of Douglas privately, however, could be higher.
They may have zero chance of keeping him from leaving, however. The 42-year-old will never have final say as long as Roseman is around, and that is certainly his objective.
But the Eagles can offer nominal changes. They can give him a GM title, a raise, and an extension. Douglas’ contract details are unknown, but a three-year deal is the norm, and his theoretically would have been up on May 11.
But the Jets can match or exceed each, and the title will carry with it more authority.
They also may have, despite only one winning season in their last eight, a franchise-caliber quarterback with Sam Darnold entering his second year. And the team’s location would allow for Douglas’ family to stay on the East Coast – one reason given for his taking the Eagles job -- or not have to move.
The Eagles, barring significant injury, are poised to have another strong season. But there are no guarantees, and GM opportunities don’t come around very often, or even as often as head coaching ones. They certainly don’t come around a second time unless you’re one of a select few (see: Roseman).
Typically, whether the iron is hot or not, you strike. But Douglas may be coveted enough to wait and remain a top candidate even after a losing season. Chris Ballard declined multiple interview requests only to wait for the Colts’ GM job.
If Douglas can afford to be picky, he may want to help choose the coach. Even before he squeezed out Maccagnan, Gase didn’t have a great reputation. He’s been compared to Kelly. And like the former Eagles coach, he helped jettison the incumbent GM, only he didn’t wait two seasons.
Douglas, like Maccagnan, is a scout’s scout, and probably didn’t appreciate the way the firing was handled. And why would anyone want to work with a coach who as the interim GM waited only a few hours before trading former first round linebacker Darron Lee for less than value?
Most current coach-GM partnerships have some co-ownership in terms of personnel. But Gase has proven in short time, for better or worse, that he often gets what he wants. How much more power would that really give Douglas?
Owner Christopher Johnson, of course, shares blame in how the Jets handled their offseason. He only recently assumed control after his brother was appointed U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom. But Woody Johnson is slated to return next year, and seeing how the organization is run, that could once again change the direction of the team.
The Eagles have made some preparations in case Douglas leaves. They hired Andrew Berry, the Browns’ former vice president of player personnel, in February, although he works under Roseman in football operations.
Douglas hired most of his staff in scouting and could take with him lieutenant Andy Weidl and director of college scouting Ian Cunningham, among others. A promotion into Douglas’ spot could keep Weidl from leaving, although he would theoretically have the same role with the Jets.