By Michael Bennett
At the University of Richmond Pro Day in 1999, Joe Douglas handed out a résumé to the teams there. Knowing he was not going to make it as a player, the offensive lineman tried to get an entry-level job with an NFL team. One of the teams he spoke to was the Jets, but they did not offer him a job.
Twenty years later, he is now their general manager.
The team yesterday hired Douglas, who for the past three years with the Eagles has helped shape the roster that won Super Bowl LII. He replaces Mike Maccagnan, who was surprisingly fired on May 15 after four years on the job.
Jets CEO/chairman Christopher Johnson picked Douglas over Bears assistant director of player personnel Champ Kelly, Seahawks co-director of player personnel Scott Fitterer and Saints director of pro scouting Terry Fontenot, who all interviewed for the job.
The Jets gave Douglas a six-year contract, according to a source. That came after back-and-forth negotiations this week and the long-term deal should alleviate any concerns Douglas has about what might happen if Woody Johnson returns from his stint as U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom following the 2020 presidential election.
Douglas has been viewed as the favorite to land the Jets job even before Maccagnan was fired. Rumors circulated around the time of the draft in April that the Jets were considering firing Maccagnan, and Douglas’ name quickly surfaced as a replacement because of his relationship with new coach Adam Gase. The two worked together in 2015 with the Bears when Douglas was the director of college scouting and Gase was the offensive coordinator. Sources said Douglas reached out to people in the league in April about joining him on the Jets if he got the job
Douglas interviewed last Saturday and Sunday, and then had a second phone interview Tuesday to discuss staffing ideas and other details. The Jets made him an offer after the second interview and the two sides negotiated until reaching an agreement shortly after 8 p.m. Friday.
The hiring calms the waters around the Jets, which have been choppy since the firing of Maccagnan. Douglas is highly respected in the scouting community and would have been a hot GM candidate next offseason if the Jets did not hire him now.
“He’s a scout’s scout,” Ravens GM Eric DeCosta told the Inky last year. “He knows how to find players, and he’s able to explain those players and describe those players to people, not with a lot of ego, not with a loud voice, but in a very sensible way. As an executive, that’s what you want.”
Douglas spent 15 years in the Ravens’ scouting department, one of the most respected in the league, before going to the Bears in 2015 as their director of college scouting and then joining the Eagles in 2016.
The Jets’ power structure remains the same as it was with Maccagnan and Todd Bowles. Both Douglas and Gase report to ownership. Douglas will have control over the 53-man roster while Gase will maintain control over the depth chart.
The preexisting relationship between Gase and Douglas should help bring some harmony. The front office and coaching staff have felt out of sync too often over the past six years, first with the John Idzik-Rex Ryan partnership, then under Maccagnan-Bowles and for the four months Gase and Maccagnan were together.
The Jets’ job is not an easy one. While the roster is better than it was a year ago after big spending on free agents such as Le’Veon Bell and C.J. Mosley, there are still large holes. The Jets need help at cornerback, edge rusher and along the offensive line, for starters.
In the plus category, the Jets finally feel they have a franchise quarterback with Sam Darnold. The second-year quarterback makes the GM job much more attractive than it had been when it opened in 2015 and 2013. Douglas has experience building around a young quarterback with Carson Wentz, which appealed to the Jets.
Douglas grew up in Mechanicsville, Va., and played college football at Richmond. After a year as a volunteer coach for the Spiders, he joined the Ravens as a scout in 2000 and stayed with Baltimore until 2014. He is credited with discovering quarterback Joe Flacco for the Ravens, who was Super Bowl XLVII MVP.