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Jets' flawed organizational structure creates 'The Todd Couple'

With the Jets' organizational structure, any disagreements between GM Mike Maccagnan and coach Todd Bowles could fester. Brad Penner/USA Today Sports

A look at what's happening around the New York Jets:

1. The voices: Owner Woody Johnson changed the organizational structure when he hired coach Todd Bowles and general manager Mike Maccagnan, moving away from the traditional setup (GM in charge) and casting Bowles and Maccagnan as equals. They report directly to Johnson, not to each other. He did it because the previous coach-GM marriage was a disaster (Rex Ryan and John Idzik) and because Bowles and Maccagnan were inexperienced in their respective roles.

The decision was short-sighted.

The inherent difference in the two jobs creates a conflicting agenda. The coach lives game to game; the GM thinks big-picture. This will be magnified this offseason as the Jets attempt to chart a course for 2017 and beyond. Do they tear it down, perhaps sacrificing some wins in 2017? Or do they keep plugging in older veterans to win now? It's easy to see how a coach and GM could disagree.

You still get the feeling that Bowles and Maccagnan, two years into their tenure, still are walking on eggshells. In a 30-minute sit-down with reporters last week, Maccagnan made no fewer than 12 references to Bowles' decision-making power. When asked specific questions about Darrelle Revis, Christian Hackenberg and the offensive-coordinator search, Maccagnan acquiesced to Bowles' authority. Technically, Bowles controls the lineup and the coaching staff.

Clearly, Maccagnan is sensitive to how people perceive their working relationship. This wasn't a one-time thing; he does it in almost every interview, which makes you wonder if he's overcompensating for some reason. The point is, the Jets don't subscribe to the "one voice" philosophy, which works well for many organizations. Nobody is suggesting there's trouble in paradise, but it's something to watch as they begin a critical offseason. Their two voices need to be in harmony.

2. If at first ...: Bowles' decision to fire five assistant coaches indicates he learned a lesson in staff building. His first staff, hired two years ago, included too many coaches short on experience. Consider:

  • Kevin Patullo had no experience as a quarterbacks coach, yet he was entrusted with the development of two young players, Bryce Petty and Hackenberg.

  • Mark Collins, who never had coached outside linebackers, was responsible for Lorenzo Mauldin and Jordan Jenkins, two young talents.

  • Marcel Shipp, the running backs coach, had no NFL experience, period.

All three were dismissed, along with Pepper Johnson (defensive line) and Joe Danna (secondary). I know some players weren't happy with their position coaches, especially when it came to teaching certain techniques. Presumably, Bowles will fill the positions with coaches who have been there, done that.

3. Chilly Pepper: Johnson was a successful line coach for years with the Patriots, but he never seemed comfortable on this side of the rivalry. His ouster came as no surprise, especially after his media flap in November. He was admonished by Maccagnan for initially refusing to fulfill a league-mandated media obligation, but that was only a small part of the problem.

Johnson was unhappy in the job, according to a source. In staff meetings, he was known to be brutally honest in his player evaluations and he felt his opinions sometimes fell on deaf ears, the source said. There also seemed to be a disconnect with the players, especially Sheldon Richardson.

4. Hardly a Kacy masterpiece: Bowles' decision to retain defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers raised some eyebrows in league circles. The defense underachieved, as the Jets allowed their most points (409) in a season since 1996. Bowles called most of the plays and was regarded by the players as the de facto coordinator, yet Bowles -- in his end-of-the-season news conference -- indicated that Rodgers played a significant role. League people suspect Bowles kept Rodgers because they're close friends.

It'll be interesting to see how they divide the responsibilities in 2017, assuming Rodgers stays. After two seasons, Bowles is at the point where he should be delegating more responsibility to his assistants, not putting more on his own plate.

5. Walking wounded: Add Mike Catapano's name to the long list of players recovering from surgery. The outside linebacker underwent arthroscopic surgery last Monday to clean out debris and bone chips in his knee, a source said. He's expected to be ready for the offseason program. The Jets are interested in keeping Catapano, who will be a restricted free agent.

If you're scoring at home, the lengthy surgery/rehab list includes Eric Decker (shoulder/hip), Matt Forte (knee), Ryan Clady (shoulder), Breno Giacomini (back), Geno Smith (knee), Marcus Gilchrist (knee), Petty (shoulder) and Brian Winters (shoulder). Nick Mangold (foot) could be added to the list.

Maccagnan, speaking on WFAN radio, said Smith is scheduled to return "some time around the start of next season." That would preclude him from participating in an offseason program -- if he signs a free-agent contract by then. If the Jets are interested in re-signing Smith -- it's a long shot -- this timetable wouldn't be ideal, especially with a new coordinator and a new system.

6. Craving Snacks: Maccagnan was second-guessed for letting Damon (Big Snacks) Harrison sign with the Giants. The second-guessing intensified this week as Harrison was named a first-team All-Pro. The Jets made a strong bid to re-sign him, but Harrison's success -- coupled with the Jets' defensive-line struggles -- makes them look bad.

The Jets barely made a ripple in the All-Pro voting, done by 50 media members. The only player to receive a vote was left guard James Carpenter -- a single vote. The Jets, Jaguars, Bears and 49ers were the only teams to receive one or no votes. The 49ers took the goose egg. On the flip side, the Cowboys led the way with 184 votes, followed by the Chiefs (167).

7. Crazy finish: One week later, it still amazes me that the Jets were able to score 10 points in zero seconds against the Bills. Nick Folk kicked a field goal with 3:21 left in the game and Doug Middleton recovered the ensuing kickoff in the end zone with 3:21 still on the clock -- a bonehead play for the ages by the Bills. Think about it for a second: They scored 10 points in no time (literally), exceeding their scoring output in four different games. Yeah, it was one of those kinds of seasons.

8. Louisville slugger: Calvin Pryor is proud of the fact that, in his first two seasons he didn't commit a single penalty -- a rather impressive accomplishment considering his style of play. His discipline went south this season as he went from zero penalties to five, including three personal fouls. If the former first-round pick is back next year (not a gimme), he needs to exercise better judgment. He was flagged for a helmet shot last week on Bills quarterback Cardale Jones, but he managed to avoid a league fine.

In case you're wondering, Buster Skrine led the team with 10 penalties. That makes 17 in two seasons. Not good.

9. Extra draft pick? Overthecap.com, in its projection of 2017 compensatory draft picks, has the Jets receiving a fourth-round choice for Harrison. That would get them back in the fourth round. Remember, they traded their fourth last spring for Brandon Shell.

10. A vote for continuity: Since 1982, the 130 teams who fired their coach increased their win total by 1.6 games the following season, according to a study by Skidmore College statistics professor Mike Lopez. That's not a whole lot, considering the teams averaged only five wins the year before.