Behind the scenes of Jets’ work-from-home NFL Draft 2020 prep

Joe Douglas began his conference call with reporters Wednesday by apologizing for any background noise from “children screaming and the dog barking.”

Like many Americans, the Jets general manager is adjusting to working from home as the country deals with the COVID-19 shutdown. The Jets had a small staff in their Florham Park headquarters for the first week of free agency that began on March 16. That staff shrunk the following week and then everyone began working from home once the NFL ordered NFL facilities closed on March 25.

“We’ve all had to be flexible, “A and I” – adjust and improvise,” Douglas said. “I think [the information technology department] has really given us the ability to use technology to our advantage in these times as far as having the right type of communication with each other, with agents, with players, being able to meet. We’re obviously doing all of this remotely. We’re doing it to the best of our ability.”

Douglas described it as “a new normal.” The Jets, Giants and teams across the NFL have had to adjust to not being able to conduct their normal pre-draft meetings, both with their scouts and coaches and the Top-30 visits with prospects. The preparation for this draft, which begins April 23, is all being done remotely.

The Jets’ IT department, led by vice president Tom Murphy, started planning for a scenario in which all of the team’s employees would be working from home in mid- to late February when the coronavirus warnings began getting louder. They started to educate staff on how to get remote access and prepare for the added stress to the internal internet circuits that would come with so many employees working remotely. The IT staff had to navigate through everyone’s varying abilities to connect from home.

“The heroes of our organization right now have been Tom Murphy and our IT department,” Douglas said. “They’ve been rock stars, getting us set up to work remotely.”

The director of the team’s video department, Ryan O’Heir, has been critical as well, making sure the coaches and personnel department can access whatever film they need.

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As the team prepares for the draft, meetings among scouts and coaches that would normally take place in a conference room are being done virtually through Microsoft Teams.

Draft prospects usually would be coming through Florham Park now to meet with teams. Instead, those meetings are being conducted several times a day through Microsoft Teams with members of the coaching staff and front office interviewing the players.

The biggest challenge has been adjusting to not being able to just walk down the hall to talk to someone about draft scenarios or about a prospect.

“There’s definitely a certain amount of [discomfort] when you’re moving from your office to your home office with the distractions that can take place,” Douglas said. “Everyone has had to go through that. I think everyone is doing a great job. I think we’ve been able to over-communicate. We’ve been able to stay on the same page. I know we have a great plan moving forward for draft meetings with our coaching staff. Nothing is really going to change from that perspective, as far as the mechanics of our meetings. It’s just going to be remotely. I think where we are technology-wise, we’re ahead of the curve.”

The Jets have not decided from where they will conduct the draft if the ban on using their facility is still in place. The Saints said this week they would use a local brewery as their war room.

The Jets have a virtual draft board, so Douglas has not had to set up a draft board in his living room. The draft board was developed internally by lead application designer Matt Capogrosso and has been tweaked to just how Douglas wants it.

“I think we’re still too far away from the actual draft to know exactly what and where we’re going to be for the draft,” Douglas said. “Ideally, in a perfect world, we’re back in our building. We’re all trying to take this day-by-day. We’re going to plan for the worst-case scenario and hope for the best. We’re going to be ready. I promise you that.”

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