Adam Gase insisted he didn't pull off a power play inside the Jets' organization. The rest of the NFL isn't so sure that's true.
And that belief, that he engineered the firing for ex-Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan, could impact how potential candidates view the Jets in their search for their next GM.
"It's New York, so of course people are going to want the job," said one NFL executive. "But they're going to want answers about who is really in control. If they know (Adam) Gase and they know they can work with him, that's fine. But anyone who doesn't know him is going to want answers and might find it a tough spot."
That's why, as the Jets begin their search for Maccagnan's successor, the early speculation in league circles has centered around Joe Douglas, the Eagles VP of player personnel who has a previous relationship with Gase from their time together in Chicago (2015.) The other candidates mentioned most -- Champ Kelly (the Bears' assistant director of player personnel), Adam Peters (the 49ers' VP of player personnel), Lance Newmark (the Lions' director of player personnel), and yes, even former NFL quarterback Peyton Manning -- have previous relationships with Gase, too.
But even they might want to ask some hard questions before truly getting involved with the Jets. CEO Christopher Johnson said the Jets' GM position is "a real attractive job", and he's right - to a point. But several NFL sources took notice when Johnson described the GM job, vaguely, as "a lot more than talent evaluation" and noted how he said he wanted "someone who could collaborate with the building."
Those statements raised some red flags.
"He clearly wants his GM to play nice with everyone, but that's not really the job," said an NFC personnel executive. "The job is to make the hard decisions. It's not to keep the coach happy."
If one thing is clear with the firing of Maccagnan, it's that Gase wasn't happy with the way he and Maccagnan worked together. Whether that resulted in a power struggle or not is open to interpretation. Several NFL sources described Gase -- who strongly denied there was any power struggle -- as an "alpha male" who believes he should be in charge the way he was in Miami, where he had control over personnel decisions and went 23-25 in three years.
How that perception impacts the GM search will depend on what Johnson does next and how he frames the job to prospective candidates. He's already said the organizational structure will remain the same, with both the coach and GM on equal footing and reporting directly to him. But for the last two coach-GM tandems, that hasn't exactly been ideal.
"So (Gase) gets to do what he wants, and now he's got the owner's ear, plus the GM technically isn't his boss?" one NFL executive said. "How is that supposed to work?"
For an outside candidate -- one with no real relationship with Gase -- it might not.
"It all depends on what they want," said one NFL source. "For a top candidate who knows he'll have options, it might be better to pass. But for someone else, it's still New York, there's a franchise quarterback, they have talent on the roster to work with, but still plenty of room for a GM to leave their mark. So it's not a terrible situation, but the politics make it hardly ideal."
Those politics make it much more likely that the next GM will be approved by Gase, or at least be someone he knows and trusts. Johnson said Gase will "assist" in the search only. But the feeling around the league is that to truly make this work, Gase will have to have a lot more control of this search than just that.