Following weeks of swirling rumors regarding the divide between New York Jets new HC Adam Gase and the man who oversaw his hire, GM Mike Maccagnan, the club announced Wednesday the firing of Maccagnan after four-plus years.
ESPN's Adam Schefter and Jeff Darlington report that Player Personnel VP Brian Heimerdinger, who had been with the organization since Maccagnan's arrival in 2015, has also been relieved of his duties.
"Mike helped to execute the strategic vision of the organization during the last four seasons and especially the last four months," Chairman Chris Johnson said in a statement. "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."
Johnson went on to say that the search for Maccagnan's replacement is already underway and in the interim, Gase will be Gang Green's acting general manager.
There's a lot to unpack here, not because this news comes as a stunner but because Maccagnan was part of the group that hired Gase in January, less than one year after he was the driving force behind the trade up and selection of franchise QB Sam Darnold with the third overall pick.
But who, then, was coordinating the Brinks Truck that delivered monster free-agent deals this offseason to LB C.J. Mosley and Le'Veon Bell, among others, and green-lighted the six selections in last month's draft, including No. 3 overall? According to reports, it was over those two monster signings that the rift between Gase and Maccagnan began to grow. NFL Media's Ian Rapoport says Gase was opposed to giving Bell the kind of deal — 4 years and $52 million, more than half of it guaranteed — he received from the Jets and wanted to cap the contract for Mosley at an AAV of $13M, not the market-shattering $17M he wound up signing for.
Frankly, since the Jets' decision late in the 2017 season to extend the contract of Maccagnan, along with since-fired HC Todd Bowles through 2020, the general manager seemingly did some of his best work, acquiring Darnold and, most recently, Quinnen Williams, the No. 1 prospect in April's draft, with the third overall pick.
But that stretch was preceded by Maccagnan's biggest gaffes as Jets general manager, coming earlier in his tenure, from an initial draft class with Leonard Williams as its only remaining member to selecting Darron Lee and Christian Hackenberg back to back in Rounds 1-2. Lee, who didn't have his fifth-year option exercised earlier this month, has been a frequently rumored trade chip, and Hackenberg is out of the NFL without having attempted a regular-season pass.
Although the early returns on Darnold are promising, it should also be noted that Maccagnan got a bit lucky when he struck the deal with the Indianapolis Colts a month before last year's draft to move up three spots, from No. 6 to No. 3. Could he have known the Cleveland Browns would select Baker Mayfield with the first pick and the cross-town rival Giants would eschew Darnold and the other three first-round quarterbacks for RB Saquon Barkley? The Jets got their guy, but it involved some blind faith.
Is this a classic blunder by the Jets, who actually seemed to enjoy a short period of supposed stability this offseason after Gase's wide-eyed and well-documented introductory news conference? We don't necessarily disagree that Maccagnan had to go, but firing him now, after he chose Darnold's developer and devised the plans of the Jets boldest back-to-back offseasons in eons, makes no sense at all. Well, until we remind ourselves this is the Jets.
Maccagnan this offseason guaranteed more than $112 million to Mosley, Bell, Jamison Crowder and Henry Anderson. Did Johnson just now realize the man he entrusted with his checkbook and to build Darnold's QB incubator wasn't long for the job? Yikes.
Then there's the fact that Gase remains an unknown quantity as a head coach but especially as a personnel man after several high-profile trades and releases that made his former employer, the Miami Dolphins, an inferior football team. After being fired with a 23-25 record and commanding only two interviews — from the Jets and Arizona Cardinals — he wields more power in Florham Park than everyone except the owner.
Just when it seemed like the Jets might have a plan, a clear road map back to being competitive, Wednesday's news brings with it a lot of new questions regarding an organization nearing a decade since its most recent playoff berth.