Jets show why they're an NFL punch line after ousting GM Mike Maccagnan

BEREA, Ohio – For so long, the New York Jets have failed to understand the origin of the off-handed comments, the root of the ridicule, the genesis of the long-standing skepticism.

For years, they rebuffed the “circus” label.

For years, they defended themselves against the “Same Old Jets” moniker.

For years, they paraded new coaches and front-office executives in an attempt to usher in a new era of relevancy and respectability.

Sure, there have been moments of perceived stability. And yes, there have been moves that seemed to indicate the franchise was finally trending upward after 50 years of futility.

And then, there are days like Wednesday, when the dysfunction that has rotted the organization’s core for decades went on full display for all of the world to witness. Days that reiterate a simple, sobering fact this fan base needs to accept: The Jets will never be a well-run organization as long as ownership has no idea what it’s doing.

New York Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan watches the first half of an NCAA college football game between Rutgers and Michigan, Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018, in Piscataway, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
The Jets fired Mike Maccagnan on Wednesday and named head coach Adam Gase the interim general manager. (AP)

Less than five months after firing former head coach Todd Bowles and hiring Adam Gase to replace him, the Jets jettisoned general manager Mike Maccagnan and vice president of player personnel Brian Heimerdinger.

The Jets always insist they’re acting in the best interest of the franchise. Yet, at every turn, management finds a new way to submarine a potentially good thing.

When it came time to dismiss Bowles, CEO Christopher Johnson convinced the fan base that it was in the team’s best interest to keep Maccagnan, the man responsible for assembling rosters that lacked enough talent to thrive. Following Bowles’ December dismissal, Johnson said in a statement: “After carefully evaluating the situation, I have concluded that this is the right direction for the organization to take.”

Johnson later doubled down on his belief in Maccagnan at the NFL owners meetings in March, telling reporters: “I think he's terrific at his job. He has a plan that I believe in. It's really key that he's working well with Adam."

But all the while, his dissatisfaction with Maccagnan was intensifying and Johnson already was looking ahead to an offseason that didn’t involve the general manager his brother Woody had hired back in January 2015.

And yet, instead of showing Maccagnan and Bowles the door simultaneously, Johnson found a new way to compound a much larger problem: He retained Maccagnan through NFL free agency and the draft, allowing the GM he didn’t trust to spend $100 million-plus in the process.

“The more I looked, the more I realized I wanted to move on,” Johnson told beat reporters on a conference call that offered no true insight into what specifically drove his decision on this particular day.

Hundreds of miles away, in the suburbs of Cleveland, the timing of Maccagnan’s firing made little sense to a former first-round Jets pick.

“Did they?” a surprised Sheldon Richardson asked at the conclusion of an OTA practice at the Browns’ practice facility. “Why they fired him now? After the draft? That’s just kind of pointless.”

New York Jets new NFL football head coach Adam Gase, center, speaks while team owner Christopher Johnson, left, and general manager Mike Maccagnan look on during a news conference in Florham Park, N.J., Monday, Jan. 14, 2019. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Jets CEO Christopher Johnson (L), pictured with head coach Adam Gase (M) and former GM Mike Maccagnan, had little explanation for the timing of Maccagnan's firing. (AP)

Good teams only care about winning. Good organizations have a plan. Good owners know what they don’t know.

And the Jets continue to show that there are deep-seated issues within their building. Since 2013, they’ve had three general managers, three head coaches and ZERO playoff appearances.

Based on his draft selections and free-agent moves, Maccagnan didn’t do enough to earn management’s long-term trust. But for all of his faults — a lack of leadership skills, poor decision-making and waning confidence — Maccagnan also fell victim to the ever-present need to please a boss.

Gase doesn’t believe in investing top dollar in centers and running backs — and that includes their new high-priced acquisition, Le’Veon Bell. But by the end of the 2018 season, everyone at 1 Jets Drive understood the directive from above: Signing Bell was the priority offseason.

So if you think Bell is in New York strictly because of Maccagnan — think again.

“I came to the decision to make a change after much thought,” Johnson wrote in the statement released Wednesday, “and a careful assessment of what would be in the best long-term interests of the New York Jets.”

And now, for better or worse, Gase has inherited this mess.

A mess solely created by Johnson.

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