FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The first time anyone noticed Joe Douglas in the NFL was the summer of 2001, when he played a bit role in the debut of HBO's "Hard Knocks" series. A low-level personnel assistant for the Baltimore Ravens, Douglas was "The Turk" -- the league's version of the Grim Reaper.
A camera followed him on cut-down day as he walked the halls of the Ravens' facility, breaking the bad news to players. He was only 25, and he looked it. He wore a blue baseball cap, khaki shorts and a blue T-shirt with "Sloppy Joe's" on the back. For what it's worth, he didn't seem to relish the assignment.
Douglas has gone from the most thankless job in the NFL to one of the toughest -- general manager of the New York Jets. From Hard Knocks to Hard Times.
Wish the man luck because he will need it.
On the surface, this is a very good hire by the Jets. Douglas, named on Friday to replace the recently fired Mike Maccagnan, is a true football guy. He worked his way up the scouting ladder in two organizations that hoisted a Lombardi Trophy during his tenure -- the Ravens and Philadelphia Eagles, where he spent the past three years as the vice president of player personnel. People in the scouting community say he's a terrific talent evaluator with a tireless work ethic. His résumé screams, "I'm ready!"
But is he ready for the Jets?
Pardon the skepticism, but this isn't your typical GM gig. Oh, no. This is a franchise that lacks stability (he's the fourth GM in the past eight years). This is a franchise with a stand-in owner, CEO Christopher Johnson, who showed inexperience and indecisiveness by waiting so long to make the Maccagnan move. This is an organization known for clashing agendas and backroom politics. A former Jets coach once told me, "You always have to watch your back in that building."
And Douglas wants to be part of this?
Hearkening back to that old T-shirt, this could get sloppy, Joe. He could be the next Bobby Beathard in terms of scouting acumen, but that doesn't mean he will be a smashing success. There are so many mitigating factors, starting with this: He must be compatible with coach Adam Gase, who, despite his denials, ran off Maccagnan in four months -- the same Maccagnan who was instrumental in hiring him.
You would like to believe Gase and Douglas will be a good team because ... well, Gase picked him. If you believe the conspiracy theorists, Gase had his eye on Douglas from the moment he arrived at One Jets Drive in January. They worked together in 2015 with the Chicago Bears and they stayed in touch. Familiarity is important in the coach-GM relationship. The Jets didn't have it with Rex Ryan-John Idzik and Todd Bowles-Maccagnan, and the results were awful -- 12-20 and 24-40, respectively.
Jets just would not take "no" as an answer from Joe Douglas. He tried to turn down the Jets and each time he did, they came back at him harder and harder. Jets simply were not going to be denied in their efforts to land the former Eagles' vice president of player personnel.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) June 8, 2019
The Jets have no chance -- no chance! -- if Gase and Douglas don't have the same vision, don't work collaboratively and don't have each other's back. That doesn't sound too difficult, but it is for this franchise. As the New York Daily News reported last week, and sources confirmed, Johnson and Maccagnan held a secret meeting late last fall with Kliff Kingsbury's agent even though Bowles was still the coach. Maccagnan must have felt like a "Sopranos" character because he went from "made" man to sleeping with the fishes in only a few months.
Gase isn't for everybody because of his intense, high-strung personality, so it's fair to wonder about the long-term viability of this marriage. Will Gase stay in his lane and let Douglas handle the roster and personnel decisions? Contractually, Douglas controls the 53-man roster and has final say. Gase insists he's cool with that, but we'll see. One positive: Basically, both men are starting at the same time, which means there shouldn't be any finger pointing if things go bad after one year. They're on the same timeline. They're in it together.
Famous last words.
Douglas inherits a roster that isn't terrible but isn't playoff-ready either. He doesn't have to worry about a quarterback because Sam Darnold shows promise, but the offensive line needs a makeover, defensive end Leonard Williams and wide receiver Robby Anderson are entering contract years and the cornerback position is scary thin. The cap situation is fine, but will Douglas feel the same way in 2021, when C.J. Mosley, Trumaine Johnson and Le'Veon Bell are counting for $47.5 million, and Darnold is eligible for an extension?
Make no mistake, Douglas will have a lot of heavy lifting in the coming years, but there's so much more to this than personnel decisions. This is about changing the culture within the building. The late great George Young, former GM of the New York Giants, used to say (paraphrasing): It's not the system that fails, it's the resistance of people buying in.
If the Jets fail to accomplish a singular vision (again), the Turk will be coming for Douglas and Gase a lot sooner than they anticipated.