The Jets have had their share of dysfunctional coach-GM relationships over the last decade, and there's no guarantee that this one will be any different. Give two alpha males relatively equal power -- or any power, really -- and clashes are bound to happen. There's always a chance things can get bad.
But at least this time the Jets are starting out on the right foot, even if they got there in a backwards way. Because a huge key for any sports operation is for a coach and general manager to share the same vision, to be able to work together and solve their differences in a professional way.
So it's nothing but a good thing that Joe Douglas, the new Jets GM, was the hand-picked choice of new Jets coach Adam Gase. Yes, that's the reverse of how it usually happens. But in the end, it won't matter how they got there, as long as the Jets' two most powerful people begin and remain on the same page.
"The Jets job isn't a bad one at all, but people were worried about who is really in control," said one NFL executive. "A GM who didn't have a history with Gase would've worried about who had the real power in that organization. But that won't be a problem here. Douglas is Gase's guy."
And that matters - a lot - because Gase made it clear from almost the moment he was hired by the Jets back in early January that former Jets GM Mike Maccagnan wasn't his guy, and it became clear over time that they didn't agree on much. As a result, Gase began a passive-aggressive push that eventually shoved Maccagnan out the door. And from long before Maccagnan was fired on May 15, Gase let people around the league know that he hoped the Jets would hire Douglas, whom he knew from their one year together in Chicago in 2015.
Yes, the Jets interviewed four candidates. And sure, as Gase kept insisting, it was inevitably the decision of Jets CEO Christopher Johnson. But don't be naive: Gase was the one pulling the strings. He was pushing for Douglas -- hard. So hard, in fact, that the Jets had to up their offer to him several times over several days, eventually landing him with a six-year deal believed to be worth about $20 million. Johnson's firing of Maccagnan may have been clumsy and ill-timed, and his wisdom in letting a new coach win a power struggle with an established GM can certainly be questioned, but he deserves credit for going hard after Gase's guy and not letting Douglas give "No" for an answer.
Maybe that does establish Gase as the real power broker in the Jets organization. But again, the important thing here is the Douglas-Gase pairing likely won't be dysfunctional. The pairing of Maccagnan and coach Todd Bowles was an arranged marriage, and though their disagreements rarely bubbled over publicly, multiple sources said the two rarely saw eye-to-eye on many of the Jets' moves. The previous pairing of coach Rex Ryan and GM John Idzik was another arranged marriage and a total disaster. In fact, the Jets haven't had a coach-GM that worked relatively harmoniously since Ryan and GM Mike Tannenbaum were a pair until 2013, when Tannenbaum was shoved out the door.
All anyone has to do is look at the poor results over the years to see why that's important. A GM's job is to build a team that a coach wants, to know what kind of players fit the coach's system and to make sure he gets them. He certainly needs to have his own vision and be willing to make the tough decisions, even over a coach's objection. But he can't simply go rogue and saddle a coach with players that a coach just doesn't want. And when big decisions have to be made -- player discipline, cutting a player or signing a free agent -- the GM and coach have to be able to discuss it, to agree on any decision, and to be understanding with each other if and when they don't.
When that happens, things work. When it doesn't, you get what the Jets have been over the last eight years -- a playoff-less mess that is 24 games under .500 in the five seasons since Tannenbaum left town.
Of course, being friendly, sharing a vision and being able to play nice doesn't guarantee success either. It's certainly possible that Douglas and Gase will share a vision that is flawed. But at least then they'll both go down together, without behind the scenes finger pointing or eye rolling. And if they sense things are going wrong with their plan, they'll be able to work together to pull themselves out of their self-inflicted mess.
But the fact that they want to work together and know each other well is the perfect place for the Jets to start. Dysfunction is a disease that can infect an entire organization. But with Douglas and Gase, the Jets at least have a chance to function better than the organization has in years.