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Joe Douglas’ Jets legacy hinges on pivotal coaching hire

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Joe Douglas, grab your bat and helmet.

You’re up. Time for you to step to the plate.

Time for you to make a difference.

If it seems like the Jets general manager has been on an extended honeymoon, quietly going about his business comfortably out of the spotlight since he was hired in June 2019, that’s exactly what’s been happening.

But Douglas’ first 18 months have not exactly screamed “executive of the year.’’

His performance in free agency last season produced more misses than hits. His first draft was respectably good with left tackle Mekhi Becton a home run and a few other players, like receiver Denzel Mims, potential starters. Regardless of any coaching deficiencies, however, his roster is a 2-14 roster.

Now it’s time for Douglas to truly make his mark on the Jets franchise that handed him a six-year contract to change the course of an organization that hasn’t been to the playoffs in a decade and hasn’t had a winning season since 2015.

That begins with finding the right head coach now that the Adam Gase mistake has been addressed with his Sunday night dismissal.

Christopher Johnson, the Jets CEO, made it clear on Monday that this is Douglas’ show.

“Joe has a lot of background, a lot of time in this league and is well respected,’’ Johnson said. “Make no mistake: He’s going to take the lead on this. I think we should have every confidence in him as the man on point in this search.’’

The challenges with this hire will be daunting for Douglas for a number of reasons.

The first and greatest challenge is choosing the right coach among a pool of capable coordinators, college coaches and head-coach retreads. Regardless of how many interviews you do, how many recommendations you seek, how do you ever really know someone’s going to be that perfect fit until you actually see him out there doing it?

The second challenge for Douglas will be his salesmanship. As of Monday, there were six openings for head coaches and the Jets, with their losing culture and uncertainty at quarterback, are not even close to the most attractive of the openings.

The Chargers, with Justin Herbert at quarterback and a pretty good roster around him, probably represent the most desirable open job.

The Jaguars, with some $100 million to spend under the salary cap and the No. 1-overall draft pick, which presumably means Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence will be on board by April, are highly attractive.

joe douglas must nail this jets coaching hire
Joe Douglas
Bill Kostroun

So, too, are the Texans, who already have their franchise quarterback in place in Deshaun Watson.

That leaves the Jets, Falcons and Lions.

What if Douglas decides Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy is his man, but Bieniemy has the pick of the litter and views the Chargers or Jaguars as better jobs?

Can he sell Bieniemy, who was passed over by ownership in 2019 when Gase was hired, on the Jets?

Good luck with that.

“This is a broad and deep search,’’ Johnson said. “We want to get it right. Clearly, we aren’t the only team looking for a new coach. Time is always of the essence, but we’re going to do this right.’’

As of Monday, the Jets already had put in requests to interview Bieniemy, Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll and Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus. There will be more candidates to come.

“This could take a few weeks,’’ Johnson said. “It could be quite quick.’’

No matter the timeline, just get it right. The Jets cannot afford to swing and miss again. Another strikeout sets the franchise back more years. No more mistakes.

Douglas can afford to make the mistake of misjudging the free-agent marketplace while low-balling receiver Robby Anderson, the team’s best receiver in 2019, and losing him to the Panthers.

He can afford to make a mistake on cornerback Pierre Desir, who was signed as a free agent to be one of the team’s starting cornerbacks but was benched in the first half of the season opener and released after Week 9.

What Douglas cannot afford is to miss on this head coach hire. This move will define his tenure with the Jets more than any player he drafts or signs from here forth.

“I am sick of losing,’’ Johnson said. “I am so tired of this — as are the players, as are the fans. But I really think that Joe is the GM we’ve been searching for for years. I have a lot of faith in him. If we can get this coaching hire right — and I think we will — I think we will be team that no one will want to see on their schedule … even next year. I see a very bright future for this team.’’

Now batting … Douglas. Joe Douglas.

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