It’s been over a week since the New York Jets began interviewing candidates for their open general manager position, and Jets owner Woody Johnson and his search party are leaving no stone unturned.
It’s been said that San Francisco 49ers director of player personnel Tom Gamble is the Jets’ top choice. However, the hiring of Gamble as Jets GM is far from the slam dunk it was thought to be a week ago.
Why that’s so is a mystery, but some close to the situation believe that Gamble did not impress the Jets in his initial interview, leading the Jets to interview more than a half-dozen new candidates over the last few days.
One of the most intriguing dark horse candidates is a man with a wealth of GM experience, just not in the NFL.
Jim Popp, longtime general manager of the CFL‘s Montreal Alouettes, has emerged as a legitimate GM candidate in NFL circles, having interviewed for the Indianapolis Colts in 2012 and Carolina Panthers in 2013.
The 48-year-old Popp, a North Carolina native, is regarded by many as the most successful general manager in CFL history, having won four Grey Cup titles among ten Grey Cup appearances over the past two decades.
Popp, the son of former NFL coach Joe Popp, has been the Alouettes’ VP, GM, director of football operations and director of player personnel since 1996, and his teams have reached the postseason for 20 consecutive seasons.
However, despite all of the success up north, Jim Popp believes he’s ready to make the jump to the NFL.s
“I would like to be a general manager in the NFL,” Popp said this week after losing out on the Panthers job. “Absolutely. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be looking at these jobs.”
He added that while he loves being in Montreal, a leap to the NFL, especially in a pressure-packed place like New York City, would be an exciting challenge for the veteran CFL executive.
“I love my job with the Alouettes, [but] I would like the challenge of turning the New York Jets around, and [bringing] them to the playoffs. It’s New York.”
I must say, the more I hear about Jim Popp, and the supporters he has all over North America, the more I like the idea of the Jets bringing him on and giving him a chance to prove himself on the highest stage.
Make no mistake, this is no gimmick. Popp appears to be a brilliant, well-respected man with an eye for talent and player evaluation. Taking on all the roles he’s responsible for in Montreal is no easy task, no matter the league.
There is always going to be risk hiring a first-time GM, but Jim Popp is a man with a ton of experience running a football organization. I believe those qualifications will translate well to the American game.
Popp deserves a long, hard look from the Jets. It would be a bold move to hire a CFL executive, but it might be the wise choice to hire a guy like Popp, who could very well be the most qualified (and interested) candidate available.