The New York Jets begin mandatory minicamp on Tuesday, June 14th. It is widely assumed that that is the next deadline to watch for the Jets and last year’s starting QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. The Jets have made their desire to resign Fitzpatrick clear through press conferences and sweeping proclamations about him being their starter but their offer has not budged since March.
It was reported then the Jets offered Fitzpatrick Chase Daniel-type money, and just recently we found out how true that report was when the details of the Jets offer leaked. As the negotiations turn nastier, Corry Joel said that agents are saying that the Jets are difficult to deal with. This ties directly into how the Jets have negotiated with their presumptive starter and their franchise tagged defensive lineman. In regards to Muhammed Wilkerson, we don’t have any details on what has been offered to him, if anything. With Fitzpatrick, we do so it’s a little easier to draw sides and argue who is right or wrong. The Jets offer to Fitzpatrick is more than fair because it represents what they feel he is valued to them and no outside suitors have emerged to challenge them. Their negotiation isn’t what bothers me though.
Todd Bowles and Mike Maccagnan have handled this terribly from a PR standpoint. I cannot recall a time when a team’s two figureheads have gone out of their way to praise a player not under contract the way Bowles and Maccagnan have done in regards to Fitzpatrick. Bowles handled last year really well despite situations that could’ve fractured a team, but in year two he is expected to be better. The way he has handled this whole Fitzpatrick situation is a rookie coach mistake. Someone who has Bill Parcells’s direct contact line should’ve known that this wasn’t the way to go about this. If you’ve constantly labeled this guy your starter, don’t then react in shock when he demands starter money.
Again, the Jets have every right to structure the contract the way they see fit in regards to his value. Yet it is concerning the Jets didn’t just take a page from the old man who knows Ryan Fitzpatrick best. Chan Gailey, who refuses to even acknowledge Fitzpatrick’s absence and instead continues to say that he will coach who is here and that he feels comfortable with whoever the QB is. That is a head coach’s response, and Bowles needed to adopt that tune from the beginning of the offseason. He isn’t the only culprit here.
Maccagnan did some great things for the Jets his first offseason, and has continued his solid work this offseason. The Jets are in much better shape today than they were when Maccagnan took over. The Bowles hire, at least on the field, looks like it could be the real deal after a 10 win season in their first year together. The draft picks over his first two drafts are exciting, and the free agent signees have been inspired deals with none really being cringe worthy. He’s also proven a shrewd negotiator behind closed doors as the Jets have been able to close many deals, renegotiate and restructure other deals, while not overpaying for talent you feel you can replace.
It is how you build a sustainable winner in this league. However, Maccagnan has dropped the ball in the Fitzpatrick PR war from day one. I’ve always disliked when GMs name players starters or when they speak of roster decisions. One of the good things from their first year together was that Bowles and Maccagnan generally got out of each other’s way. Bowles coached the roster Maccagnan assembled, and it worked fine. I worry that Maccagnan’s insistence that Fitzpatrick will be the team’s starter may handcuff Bowles’ ability to lead this team. We saw a little bit of this with Rex Ryan and John Idzik, and it usually stems of dueling philosophies and priorities. Coaches need to win to save their jobs, whereas GMs have a longer vision in mind. It seemed both Bowles and Maccagnan got it from the beginning, but I wonder if the pressure to duplicate and/or surpass last year’s 10 wins has led to them acting in an unorthodox manner this offseason in regards to Fitzpatrick.
It has been troubling that Maccagnan has also gone out of his way to lose the PR battle with Fitz while driving such a hard bargain behind closed doors. They need to alter their approach, and it needs to happen now.
Bowles needs to continue to say little about Fitzpatrick, the media in New York be damned. Maccagnan needs to defer all questions to Bowles about who the starter will be while he continues to negotiate what he believes is the best deal for the New York Jets today and into the future. Even if we all assume it will be Fitzpatrick, it does a team that is trying to end a 6 year playoff drought no good to have to deal with a story that right now has nothing to do with them. The Jets need to get better on the field, but the two men leading the franchise need to get better too. It starts with them, and they need to grow up.
Photo Credit: NewYorkJets.com