General manager Joe Douglas could do no wrong when he was first hired by the New York Jets but after the two-win season last year and the recent 0-3 start, a contingent of fans started to turn on him.
The main critique has been his unwillingness to extend talented players long-term. Many Jets supporters have labeled him as cheap, and they could be right, but you could also argue that he’s had tremendous foresight.
Outside of Sam Darnold, who has had some success to start 2021, the players that Douglas either traded or let walk have failed to make a significant impact. Robby Anderson had a solid 2020 for example, but the Panthers didn’t make the playoffs and there were clear reasons against committing to him long-term (more on that below).
This week, another bombshell cemented an alternative narrative — Douglas has earned our trust.
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Dodged a Bullet on Marcus Maye
Let me be clear, Douglas has not been perfect. His 2020 draft class looks shaky aside from cornerback Bryce Hall and UDFAs Bryce Huff and Javelin Guidry. He’s also made some mistakes in free agency choosing bargain signings like Connor McGovern and Greg Van Roten over established options.
There has been one area where his track record is phenomenal though, and that’s moving on from Mike Maccagnan’s draft picks. Case in point; Marcus Maye.
The safety would have been extended back in April if it were up to many of us. I wouldn’t have been opposed to a new contract myself, although I didn’t think it was 100% necessary either. After Maye’s agent started demanding huge money, Douglas decided that it was better to wait.
Just four weeks into the season, that turned out to be a stupendous decision. First, it was announced that Maye would miss three to four weeks with an ankle injury. Then on October 4, the real story dropped. The 28-year old is facing charges for a hit-and-run accident while driving under the influence.
The kicker? The Jets organization supposedly had no clue. If that’s true, it would certainly explain why his agent, Erik Burkhardt, has been trying to push the envelope on this extension since early March.
Once again, Douglas’ bet pays off, and it’s not all dumb luck. This and the other decisions not to extend were all wise choices by the Jets GM, and I’ll explain why.
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Douglas Puts Character Over Talent
Time and time again, Maccagnan chose talent over character in his roster moves. Gang Green needed more skill so the former GM sacrificed teamwork and culture to get his hands on it. From the start, Douglas and Robert Saleh told us that this would change.
After a deep dive into Maccagnan’s draft classes, I determined at least nine players (including Maye) that have been outed for their off-the-field issues — and that doesn’t even take into account free-agent signings like Le’Veon Bell.
That list is made up of Maye, Anderson, Jamal Adams, Chris Herndon, Darron Lee, ArDarius Stewart, Dylan Donahue, Jachai Polite and Chuma Edoga (the only one still on the roster).
As I highlighted in the tweet above, each of these prospects has been involved in some sort of legal or locker room drama off the field.
- Lee: Suspended for PEDs twice in 2018 and 2020 (first time was with New York), traded by Douglas.
- Donahue: Plead guilty to DWI and DUI charges in 2018 (with Jets), cut by Maccagnan.
- Stewart: Arrested for carrying a pistol without a permit in 2019 (post-Jets), cut by Maccagnan.
- Polite: Fined and cut by Douglas during his rookie training camp (2019) after Maccagnan drafted him despite well-known behavioral issues.
- Anderson: Walked in free agency to play for Matt Rhule (his college coach). With the Jets, the undrafted wide receiver was arrested on two charges in 2017 and nine charges in 2018.
- Adams: After publicly bashing the organization and forcing his way out of town, the star safety was traded. It was never revealed whether Adams was a locker room problem, but it was very telling that almost none of his teammates offered him any support or well wishes upon his departure.
- Herndon: Traded by Douglas in 2021 due to performance, but was also suspended in 2019 because of a DWI.
- Edoga: Still with the team due to his willingness to change after failing a drug test and getting in an altercation with a referee at USC.
There’s reason to believe that Douglas would have steered clear of every single one of these players in the draft. High-character culture builders are always high on his list and these nine don’t fit those parameters whatsoever. Only a few of these players were ever seriously considered for an extension, but I’d argue Douglas made the right call on every decision to pass.
Based on his legal history, committing to Anderson was a risk I wanted to avoid. Instead, Douglas signed Corey Davis one year later for less money (Carolina just gave their WR a raise), and he currently has more receiving yards than Anderson in 2021.
Herndon has yet to catch a pass since joining the Minnesota Vikings, and Douglas was able to get a fourth-rounder for him (while sending a sixth in return).
Then there’s Adams, whose departure rewarded the Jets with two first-round picks and a third. So far, the haul has equaled Alijah Vera-Tucker, but the second first-rounder is still on the way in 2022. The Seattle Seahawks mortgaged their future on Adams and as of now, they have nothing to show for it.
One player I left out was Leonard Williams. The former first-round pick was a model teammate and has played well for the New York Giants, but he never played like that for Gang Green. It was the right decision to trade him at the time because the Jets were rebuilding, plus it’s not like Big Blue has won anything with him.
As for Darnold, the jury is still out. He started 3-0 with the Panthers but wasn’t asked to do much. In his first game without Christian McCaffrey, he lost and threw two interceptions with an 85.5 QB rating. Besides, the decision to move on from Darnold was partially based on restarting the financial window at quarterback.
I do expect this extension drought to end once Douglas’ own signings and draft picks are up for new contracts. Defensive end John Franklin-Myers would be a good place to start.