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.
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.
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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.