NFL: Why the New York Jets Fired GM Mike Maccagnan, and Where They go From Here

Free agency and the draft are how NFL teams acquire most of their new players each year, so teams typically make front office changes between the end of the season and the start of free agency. That helps to ensure that the administration guiding the team through the season chooses which players join the squad. Which is why it was so odd when the New York Jets decided to make a change at general manager on May 15, more than two weeks after the 2019 NFL draft.

Mike Maccagnan out, Adam Gase in

New York Jets CEO Christopher Johnson announced that the team fired GM Mike Maccagnan after conducting a “deep dive” of the team’s inner workings. The team also removed vice president of player personnel Brian Heimerdinger.

With Maccagnan and Heimerdinger out, head coach Adam Gase — who Maccagnan hired this offseason — is the interim general manager during the search for Maccagnan’s replacement. Johnson said during a conference call with reporters that the decision to replace Maccagnan wasn’t about a draft or two, but rather the deeper he looked into things, the clearer it became to him that “it was time for a change and a time to move on.”

Whether or not what Johnson says is true, the timing of the move is nothing if not odd and out of step with how most NFL teams operate.

Maccagnan’s history with the Jets

The Jets hired Mike Maccagnan in 2015. They went 10-6 in their first season of his regime, but they just missed the playoffs. Things started to get worse from there, however, as the Jets didn’t win more than five games in the three subsequent seasons under Maccagnan. They ultimately went 24-40 during his four seasons as GM.

Maccagnan’s draft history with the team doesn’t look good. Of the six players he took in his inaugural draft in 2015, only first-round pick Leonard Williams is still with the team. The list of quarterbacks Maccagnan drafted from 2015-17 is a who’s who of NFL failures, with Bryce Petty and AAF alum Christian Hackenberg on that list. But it looks like Maccagnan finally selected the right quarterback in 2018. Based on the numbers he put up in his rookie season last year, Sam Darnold looks like he may be the franchise quarterback the Jets have been seeking for quite some time.

Maccagnan vs. Gase over Le’Veon Bell?

New York Jets head coach Adam Gase won his power struggle with former general manager Mike Maccagnan.
Coach Adam Gase will also be the New York Jets general manager until they can find a replacement for Mike Maccagnan. | Michael Hickey/Getty Images

Maccagnan made sevreral signings during this year’s free agency period, with the highest profile and most expensive being veteran RB Le’Veon Bell, who signed a four-year contract worth $52.5 million ($35 million guaranteed). The per-year average of $13.1 million places Bell second among all of the running backs in the NFL.

Gase reportedly felt that was too much money for the 27-year-old who sat out all of last season in a contract dispute with the Steelers, though he called Bell a rare player. The rift between the coach and GM reportedly increased during the draft, though Johnson denied that Gase had a say in the Jets’ getting rid of Maccagnan.

Potential replacement for Maccagnan

While Gase is the interim GM, he isn’t expected to keep the job permanently. However, the leading candidate to replace Maccagnan has ties to Gase. Philadelphia Eagles executive Joe Douglas, according to media reports, is at the top of the Jets’ wish list for a new GM, and NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah is under serious consideration to land a prominent position in the Jets’ front office. Jeremiah is a close friend of Douglas.

Douglas was the Bears’ college scouting director in 2015 when Gase was Chicago’s offensive coordinator. Douglas then moved on to the Eagles, where he has helped turn them into a perennial contender and Super Bowl champions. Before joining NFL Network, Jeremiah was an NFL scout for eight seasons and could fill Heimerdinger’s position, becoming the right-hand man for Douglas, with whom Jeremiah previously worked with the Ravens. With their solid football credentials, the Douglas-Jeremiah combo might be just what the New York Jets need to find consistent success.