New York Jets Power Struggle: Why Former General Manager Mike Maccagnan Was Fired

Ethan Hewett | May 20th, 2019

The New York Jets have become the biggest headline in the National Football League after last Wednesday when, less than a month after the draft, they fired their General Manager Mike Maccagnan. Along with him they also fired Vice President of Player Personnel Brian Heimerdinger, who was Maccagnan’s second in command and potential successor. The Jets then placed new head coach Adam Gase as the interim GM.

“This morning, I informed Mike that he was being relieved of his duties as General Manager of the team, effective immediately. 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.”

-Christopher Johnson, Chairman and CEO of the New York Jets on January 15, 2019

Maccagnan, who had been with the Jets since 2015, has helped to guide the team through a new vision ever since he was brought in with Todd Bowles, whom the Jets fired back in December. He was brought in primarily for his ability to find talent in the draft and looking back he had found some players in the early rounds such as Sam Darnold, Jamal Adams, and Leonard Williams and of course this year as well in Quinnen Williams. Maccagnan was able to make it through the Bowles firing back in December, but as we saw with Rex Ryan and John Idzik back in the 2013 and 2014 seasons, the head coach and GM from two different eras struggled to see eye to eye on the team’s future, and Maccagnan’s situation with Adam Gase seemed very similar.

Throughout free agency, the Jets allowed Maccagnan to spend nearly $200 million dollars on players C.J. Mosely, Le’Veon Bell, Jamison Crowder, and Henry Anderson. This free agency period also seems to be where the power struggle started. According to Tony Pauline ,who was one of the first to report on the “rift” between Maccagnan and Gase, said it started when the team failed to bring in certain free agents, such as the failure to sign Matt Paradis and Anthony Barr who pulled out of the Jets deal and returned home to Minnesota. Gase also was apparently not a fan of the size of contract that was given to Bell.

The power struggle to me almost seemed to start as soon as Gase was hired. While the team, and owners claimed that it was a group hire and also a Maccagnan hire, the events following seemed to suggest otherwise. Looking back at the initial press conference welcoming Gase, Maccagnan didn’t say a single word for the entire 15-minute press conference. Of course, the Jets, Maccagnan, and Gase all denied the rumors of a rift, with Gase even saying, “Unless I say it, it’s really irrelevant to me. I don’t know who decides to put that stuff out there. It kind of pisses me off a little bit.”

Something that could have led to this power struggle is that Gase had a lot more control over the Miami Dolphins team where he was in charge of the 53-man roster. In New York, however, he was going to have a little less control and with the Jets naming him as the interim GM, he now has power and it also gives him a say in who the new GM will be.

While the firing of Maccagnan may not be surprising due to the lack of late round talent in recent NFL drafts, most people questioned the timing of it, as usually a head coach and GM will leave and enter together. The best reasoning to me for the late firing, is that it would have been difficult for Gase and a new staff to compile a big board of over 400 prospects based on the Jets needs and value with only three months to prepare for the 2019 NFL Draft, so allowing Maccagnan to handle the draft seemed to be the best option.

The Jets have put their faith in Gase to work with his connections and bring in a strong staff and also hoping he can get the best out of young quarterback Sam Darnold. CEO Christopher Johnson has come out and mentioned the type of GM they are looking for, “… I made the decision that I want to find a better fit for this building, I want to find somebody who, just looking forward and not talking about Mike here, I want a great strategic thinker. It’s more than a talent evaluation guy. I want a great strategic thinker, a great manager, a communicator, someone who can collaborate well with the building. I’m convinced we’re going to find that person.”

So with the Maccagnan era now closed, and the Gase era just beginning, rumors are already flying about who the new GM will be. The strongest candidate at the moment appears to be Philadelphia Eagles Vice President of Player Personnel Joe Douglas along with other potential candidates such as Daniel Jeremiah from the NFL Network, and some rumors have even suggested Peyton Manning, whom Gase coached back with the Denver Broncos during their 2014 Super Bowl run. It’s clear that whoever they bring in will give Gase the power he wants and will hopefully bring some steadiness to an out of control Jets Franchise.

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