Report: Johnson Gauged Interest Of Coach Candidates Behind Maccagnan's Back, While Bowles Was Still Employed

By WFAN Sports Radio 101.9 FM/66AM New York

Jets acting owner Christopher Johnson arranged a series of back-channel conversations late last season to discuss possible head coaching candidates while Todd Bowles remained in the dark about his future, according to a report.

The Daily News' Manish Mehta reported Thursday that Johnson arranged a meeting in his Manhattan apartment in late November or early December that included himself, general manager Mike Maccagnan, vice president of player personnel Brian Heimerdinger and Erik Burkhardt, the agent for coaching candidate Kliff Kingsbury.

Johnson also spoke, without Maccagnan's knowledge, with the camps of at least two more-established coaching candidates, offering to give them the power to retain or fire the GM. 

Jets chairman and CEO Christopher JohnsonRich Barnes/USA TODAY Images

Johnson fired Bowles hours after the Jets' season finale and then surprisingly axed Maccagnan earlier this month, after allowing him to steer the franchise through the heart of free agency and the draft.

Mehta wrote that "Johnson’s series of stealth, reckless actions in the past six months have prompted decision makers across the NFL to question the leadership of this star-crossed outfit." He also suggested it could raise red flags with candidates as the franchise searches for Maccagnan's replacement.

One of the coaching candidates Johnson reached out to, through an intermediary, was Michigan's Jim Harbaugh, the report said. The Jets' interest in Harbaugh was reported while the season was still going on, but Johnson issued a statement denying it. Harbaugh remains with the Wolverines. 

Gang Green was very much interested in Kingsbury after formally interviewing the former Texas Tech coach Jan. 7, Mehta reported. But the Jets wanted to complete their interview process first, the report said, and Kingsbury was hired by the Arizona Cardinals before they did.