The happiest man in the whole damn place wore a green baseball cap, button-down shirt and had a scraggly beard. The annoyance painted on his face for months was replaced by self-effacing humor, TMI jokes and good-natured ribbing.
It must be good to be Adam Gase, who has the Jets universe in the palm of his hands now that he has his preferred general manager in the building for the foreseeable future.
Nearly a month after Mike Maccagnan’s ouster, the Jets unveiled Joe Douglas to the masses Tuesday, capping off their seemingly endless search for football’s Holy Grail. Douglas is a terrific choice for myriad reasons, including this simple truth: He’s got his sh-- together.
For a franchise perpetually lost in the wilderness, that’s a welcome change.
Douglas’ pedigree, football acumen, temperament and leadership shouldn’t be questioned. By every objective measure, he’s ready to climb into the big chair.
The larger question is whether Douglas, who worked with Gase for one season in Chicago, is ready to handle his highly intelligent — yet complicated — coach.
"He probably likes my insanity a little bit,” Gase deadpanned.
Truth be told, there was a different Gase on display on this day.
The stressed guy, who deflected and dodged tough questions a couple weeks ago about his role in Maccagnan’s dismissal, was gone. The irritated guy, who privately stewed over the past few months about personnel decisions that he disagreed with, was nowhere to found.
When Christopher Johnson — who delivered a pre-written two-minute speech before disappearing and not answering questions Tuesday — signed off on Gase’s top choice for the job, the coach couldn’t contain his enthusiasm.
“I was excited when Christopher called me and told me what was going on,” Gase said. “Got that update and then I was borderline ex-girlfriend harassing Joe: ‘When are you coming up? When are you coming up?’ The last couple days have been awesome.”
Make no mistake: There are still fair concerns about the franchise’s infrastructure, highlighted by an indecisive CEO learning on the job. But there’s promise in the Douglas-Gase relationship. First and foremost, Douglas won’t be a yes man. His reputation as a strong-minded evaluator has been well earned. He’s no shrinking violet.
“His evaluations skills are unbelievable,” Gase said. “Guys who have worked with him in the past … always would say, ‘If Joe says a guy’s a good player, believe him. Because he knows what he’s doing.’ And coaches trust him. You don’t hear the squabbles because he does such a great job evaluating players.”
Reduced to simplest terms, here are the things that matter most: Can Douglas deliver the players that make most sense for Gase and Gregg Williams’ respective schemes? And can Gase stay in his lane and do what he does best: coach?
“You see the size of him? He can take me. I know he can,” Gase cracked about potential disagreements with Douglas. “There’s not like fist fights going on. There’s discussions. That’s part of football.… His job is personnel. I’m always going to defer to him in a lot of aspects of that stuff, because that’s his expertise…. My job is to coach the players.”
That’s all well and good, but Gase is an emotional person, who sometimes lets his emotions get the best of him.
It’ll be incumbent upon Douglas to reel in his head coach if he gets overzealous — and believe me, Gase will get frisky from time to time – but there’s the potential that this could all work out swimmingly for the Jets.
Douglas was exactly right that “communication and transparency” are at the root of it all. If the two men feed off each other, the Jets might have a promising present and future.
The brain trust’s six-year commitment (for more than $3 million per year) in Douglas is steep. Agent Jimmy Sexton, who also represents Gase and Sam Darnold, wisely insulated his client from disaster upon owner Woody Johnson’s return from his post as US Ambassador to the UK as early as 2020 by negotiating such a lengthy, lucrative contract.
“I can promise you that I wouldn’t be standing here if I didn’t have a comfort level with where this franchise was from a leadership position,” Douglas said. “If there were serious reservations, I wouldn’t be here.”
Douglas, who has three Super Bowl rings, admitted that Darnold’s presence “absolutely” made this gig more appealing.
“I would say (with) most open positions like this,” Douglas said, “You’re walking into a franchise where you don’t have that piece to the puzzle.”
It’s a gigantic piece that has eluded this star-crossed franchise for the better part of a half-century. Douglas walks into a far-from-perfect scenario, but it’s still a scenario that might have the most critical component to building a sustainable winner.
“That’s the toughest position to find,” Gase said of landing a young franchise signal caller. “It’s so tough to evaluate college quarterbacks. When you have a guy who just turned 22, that’s got to be an attractive piece being a GM, because you’re not looking to spend a first-round draft pick on a quarterback. And that’s a lot of pressure lifted off your shoulders.”
Douglas, who helped turn the Eagles into Super Bowl champions for the first time in franchise history thanks, in part, to Carson Wentz, admitted that winning now will be his driving force.
“There was a sense of urgency in Philadelphia,” Douglas said. “We had a young quarterback and we wanted to put the pieces around him. I think there’s going to be that same urgency anywhere, but especially here with the young quarterback like Sam.”
“Once you know you have the right guy,” the GM added, “That’s the sense of urgency. Let’s go win right now.”