FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — No one knows if Joe Douglas and Adam Gase can raise the New York Jets from the walking dead and deliver — dare we say it? — their first Super Bowl championship in a half-century. After all, Douglas is a rookie general manager and Gase is a 23-25 coach. But this much can be said with absolute certainty:
They know each other. They respect each other. They wanted to work together.
Hey, these are victories for the Jets, a franchise known for its lousy matchmaking. This time, they’ve entrusted the team to two men who can skip the “let’s-get-acquainted” stage and get down to business immediately. If they fail, it won’t be because they’re not aligned.
Next to Douglas and his family, Gase might have been the happiest guy in the room at Tuesday’s news conference. He was borderline giddy, even cracking jokes afterward about his own introductory news conference, which will be immortalized in the Meme Hall of Fame.
“He probably likes my insanity a little bit,” Gase said of Douglas.
Listening to Gase go on and on about Douglas, praising his skills as a talent evaluator and people person, you half-expected him to pull a Jerry McGuire by saying, “He completes me.” Gase never talked about Mike Maccagnan that way, which is why Maccagnan is the former GM.
Gase went into this gig knowing it probably is his last shot as a head coach, and he didn’t want to leave his fate in the hands of a stranger with whom he had no comfort level. You can criticize him for executing a power play — Maccagnan supporters call it back-stabbing — but Gase got what he wanted. He got Douglas, the candidate he recommended to CEO Christopher Johnson.
“His evaluation skills are unbelievable,” Gase said. “Coaches, staff, guys that worked with him in the past, they always would say, ‘If Joe says a guy is a good player, believe him.’ He knows what he’s doing. Coaches trust him. You don’t have the squabbles because he does such a great job of evaluating players.”
Translation: I trust him. Gase didn’t feel that way about Maccagnan, resulting in one of the shortest arranged marriages in NFL history.
Gase met Douglas when they worked for the Chicago Bears in 2015, when Gase was the offensive coordinator and Douglas was a top scout. Chicago was only a one-year stopover for both men — they went on to bigger jobs — but they hit it off in a short period of time. Douglas took a chance by leaving a cushy scouting job with the Baltimore Ravens, and he didn’t know many people in Chicago.
“I’ll never forget, Adam is the guy that reached out to me almost immediately,” Douglas said. “We struck up a friendship and he invited us over to his house. We were able to have dinner, we were able to talk ball. It was just apparent from the beginning that we shared a lot of the same visions about teamwork and team building.”
Sorry to ruin the warm-and-fuzzy mood, but we would be remiss if we didn’t mention that Gase and Douglas are represented by the same agent, Jimmy Sexton, whose presence can’t be under-estimated. That said, his clients seem to have a genuine affinity for each other. In his opening remarks, Douglas smiled when he recalled the “special bond” he developed with Gase in Chicago.
In the Jets’ power structure, they’re on the same level, both reporting to CEO Christopher Johnson. Technically, Douglas has the final say on the roster and personnel decisions, but he said he will seek Gase’s input. Gase said he will defer to Douglas because “that’s his expertise.”
“My job is to coach the players,” Gase said. “That’s what I love doing. I love being on the field. Now we have a guy who loves doing what he does. It’s exciting.”
It’s always exciting on the honeymoon. In January 2013, new GM John Idzik said he was “excited” to work with Rex Ryan, the coach he inherited. “We’re going to be all-in, all together.” They had met only a couple of days earlier.
Their partnership turned ugly, and it was Splitsville after only two years.
In January 2015, Maccagnan said he and coach Todd Bowles were “a natural fit. … It was just one of those situations that felt right.” They had met only a couple of days earlier, when Maccagnan picked up Bowles at Newark (New Jersey) Airport.
They managed to squeeze four years out of a marriage that went stale quickly and produced way too many losses.
So now the Jets are on to Gase and Douglas, fast friends whose careers hinge on each other. On Day 1, it was all fun and laughs for the intense coach and the beefy, old offensive lineman. Asked if he would ever challenge Douglas on a personnel decision, Gase cracked, “You see the size of him?”