The last two years, Mike Maccagnan has worked hard to right the Jets' ship. Piece by piece he's dismantled the previous mess and distanced the organization from its past.
And for a moment, it looked like the Jets had finally left the big top for the big time.
Then, on Wednesday morning, CEO Christopher Johnson fired Maccagnan along with his top assistant, Brian Heimerdinger, and elevated his brand new head coach to interim general manager, and it sure seemed like the "same old Jets" routine was back on.
The Jets can justify this move any way they'd like -- and they will surely try to in the coming weeks and months -- but it is a move that makes little sense and a timing that's down-right bizarre. They sided with Maccagnan at the end of last season when they made Todd Bowles their scapegoat for three years of failures. They publicly and privately stood strongly behind Maccagnan and his rebuilding plan.
Then they let him lead the coaching search. They let him spend more than $100 million in free agency for the second straight year. They let him run the draft, including the third overall pick.
And then they fire him? For a coach they've only had for four months?
It's as if they heard the praise people were offering for their new organizational plan, read the compliments about their new-found stability, believed the hype from those who thought they were about to emerge as a playoff contender and decided "You know what? That's not really for us."
This wasn't a complete surprise, of course. Rumors and reports began weeks ago that Maccagnan was on his way out, that a rift had developed lightning quick between he and Gase. It was unclear why, though at the time Gase was hired it did not seem like he had been Maccagnan's first choice for the job. And worse, Maccagnan, Gase, and many people in the organization strongly denied any problem.
Either something dramatically changed in the last few days, or they all stuck to the company line.
Whatever it was, though, that just adds to the feeling of a rudderless ship, swaying from whim to whim -- the way the Jets used to operate, not the way they had seemed to be operating lately. They owe an explanation to everyone of why they soured so quickly on Maccagnan after basically entrusting him to rebuild the entire organization. They need to explain why Gase is now in charge of what, top to bottom, is basically Maccagnan's team.
And if they did have deep-seeded problems with Maccagnan, why wasn't this done at the end of December. They could've gone for the clean sweep, the two-for-one when they fired Bowles. Firing Bowles and keeping Maccagnan was a strong statement of support for the general manager. Why trust him with the third overall pick and another $100 million if the support was going to be so short-lived?
Now, here is what they left with: A team that seems ready to become a contender, coached by a man who clearly has issues with the way it was built, and soon to be run by a new general manager who might have an entirely different vision. Whatever stability they had, whatever path they were following, it could all be out the window (again) within weeks.
Somehow, Johnson -- in his statement -- claimed the decision came "after much thought and careful assessment of what would be in the best long-term interests of the New York Jets." This decision, though, seems far more impulsive than that.
Maybe he's got a better explanation -- and will offer it at some point -- of why he trusted Maccagnan to rebuild his franchise, find his franchise quarterback, spend $200 million on free agency and make two Top 3 draft picks over the last 14 months, yet he doesn't trust him now. Maybe he'll have good reason for placing his faith in a coach he's just getting to know, rather than the GM who led his franchise out of the depths in recent years.
Yes, Maccagnan's draft record was terrible beyond the first round. Yes, his first dip into the free agent pool in 2018 wasn't exactly successful. Yes, you could make a very good argument why he deserved to be fired.
But not now. And not like this. And not so they could hand the keys over to a brand new head coach who failed in his last stop. A few weeks ago, the Jets looked like the kind of franchise they always wanted to be. Now they again look like the franchise they've always been instead.