The New York Jets have departed on a big journey without a road map.
They're conducting concurrent searches for a head coach and a general manager, not knowing the exact power structure of the organization. Ideally, they'd like to hire the GM first, followed by the coach -- the traditional approach -- but owner Woody Johnson said he's willing to adjust on the fly.
In other words, he's not opposed to hiring the coach and letting him have input into the GM decision. The Kansas City Chiefs did it two years ago with Andy Reid. The Seattle Seahawks are Exhibit A, as they hired Pete Carroll shortly before GM John Schneider -- and they have a Lombardi Trophy sitting in the lobby of their facility.
But here's the thing: Reid and Carroll were top head-coaching candidates, proven winners with enough street cred to justify the star treatment. None of the known names on the Jets' wish list fall into that category, yet Johnson has left open the possibility of hiring a coach first if he falls in love with a candidate and is worried about losing him to another team.
Doug Marrone could be that guy. The former Buffalo Bills coach, who exercised a unique opt-out clause in his contract Wednesday, is very much on the Jets' radar. And the interest is mutual. Marrone is a New York guy, a former Jets assistant, and you have to think he wouldn't leave one job unless he knew another was waiting for him -- even though he's still due to make $4 million from the Bills in 2015. He's a solid coach, but does he warrant the Carroll/Reid treatment with a 15-17 career record? One league source said he wouldn't be surprised if Johnson offered Marrone more control over personnel than a typical coach.
It's a slippery slope because you're empowering the coach, essentially setting up a structure in which the coach and GM report directly to the owner. It could lead to trouble. The Jets just extricated themselves from a situation in which the coach and GM, Rex Ryan and John Idzik, had conflicting agendas and it led to a disconnect. Ryan wanted Darrelle Revis, Idzik didn't. Ryan wanted DeSean Jackson, Idzik didn't. And so on.
On Monday, Johnson talked about the importance of the coach and GM working in lockstep. Hiring the coach before the GM would set up an unconventional dynamic. Yes, it works for the Seahawks, but they're an aberration. Carroll and Schneider have a rare partnership.
Look, it's too soon to get fired up and rip the Jets for their approach -- the process has barely begun -- but it'll be interesting to monitor. Ultimately, it'll come down to finding two good men with the ability to coexist. In 2013, Johnson didn't exactly have an eHarmony moment when he paired Idzik and Ryan together.
One longtime personnel executive believes the Jets could be playing a dangerous game.
"You might as well take a gun, aim at your foot and shoot twice," said the executive, commenting on the coach-before-the-GM scenario. "That would be absolutely stupid. As soon as you hire a coach, you have to understand that the GM would no longer be a GM. He'd be an MG. How do you have checks and balances? It seems to me that Woody is making this up as he goes along."
It should be noted that Johnson did this once before, in 2001, when he hired the Terry Bradway-Herm Edwards tandem. Technically, Bradway was first, but it was a package deal. Johnson was so smitten with Edwards that he hired Bradway, in large part, because he was pro-Herm, according to a source.
The Edwards-Bradway team didn't last for the long haul, but it made the playoffs in three of its first four seasons. Johnson would sign up for that in a New York minute.