The New York Jets are in the last quarter of the first season of what appears to be a complete rebuild. They’ve performed better than expected this season but still have tough decisions to make regarding the front office and the coaching staff. Let’s go through some of the decisions the Jets face going forward and how it can affect the team going forward.
There’s nothing more important than the Jets establishing a promising core to build their team off of. These are players that have proven themselves valuable assets at this point. Right now, at this point, you could say their core consists of the following players:
WR Quincy Enunwa
WR Robby Anderson
LG James Carpenter
RG Brian Winters
RT Brandon Shell
DE Leonard Williams
LB Darron Lee
S Jamal Adams
S Marcus Maye
Every decision the Jets make regarding their staff should be for the benefit of this group. With that being noted, let’s begin our examination at the top of the staff with GM Mike Maccagnan.
Mike Maccagnan is in his third year as general manager of the New York Jets. Maccagnan has also had good moments such as the Sheldon Richardson trade or signing Robby Anderson as a UDFA. He’s also had bad moments, such as drafting Christian Hackenberg in the 2nd round and paying Ryan Fitzpatrick $12 million in 2016. The ratio of good to bad decisions is probably close to even. But it’s easier to judge the quality of the roster.
Any evaluation of a GM should start with two questions.
Is the team better than when the GM got here?
Is the team currently headed in the right direction?
It’s important to note these questions are not something to evaluate after just one season. Typically 3-5 years is a proper space of time to figure this answer out. The Jets full rebuild started about two years late after Maccagnan’s failed free agency splash in 2015 led to a disaster season in 2016. The evaluation starts with that mistake. All things considered, however, this is year 3 for Maccagnan and the team is slightly better at this point than they were when he got here but losing two years is problematic.
Maccagnan has improved a few areas of need that existed before his hiring. The Jets upgraded at safety long term with the drafting of Jamal Adams, and Marcus Maye. They’ve upgraded at TE with the signing of Austin Seferian-Jenkins after his release from Tampa Bay. At wide receiver, despite not getting the desired results from Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall in 2016, Maccagnan has still been able to maintain an impressive wide receiver room. After moving on from Decker/Marshall, Robby Anderson made a massive jump in his development, the aforementioned Sheldon Richardson trade added Jermaine Kearse to the group, and the rising star, Quincy Enunwa, is still waiting in the wings for 2018. There have been upgrades along the offensive line, with the drafting of Brandon Shell, and the signing of James Carpenter. However, there has been a drop off at center with Nick Mangold being replaced by Wesley Johnson and at left tackle with the retirement of D’Brickashaw Ferguson leading to a few auditions from Ryan Clady (who was cut after a season), Ben Ijalana, and now Kelvin Beachum.
The Jets still have major needs at QB, RB, LT, OLB, and CB all of which have been a revolving door of declining veterans and reach draft picks. Other than RB, the Jets needs are all at premium positions. As much cap space as the Jets have coming up, it’s important to understand that its difficult to buy long term success. Maccagnan still has to build through the draft primarily and so far those results have been mixed. In opposition to the hits we mentioned earlier, there’s also Devin Smith, Lorenzo Mauldin, and a 2nd round reach for Hackenberg. It must be said, however, that Maccagnan’s 2017 draft was an improvement from the previous years, most notably his selection of Marcus Maye who has been a steal as a 2nd round pick.
So would you say the Jets are better now than they were when Maccagnan got here? Would you say they’re heading in the right direction? It’s always good to have a frame of reference. To further investigate, let’s take a relatable GM’s performance into perspective. We’ll examine David Caldwell, GM of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
When Caldwell was hired in 2013, the Jaguars had been out of the playoffs for 6 years and had a roster that was in shambles. By 2016, though the playoff drought hadn’t ended, but the roster was much improved. Caldwell managed to draft Allen Robinson, Marqise Lee, Jalen Ramsey, Myles Jack, and Yannick Ngakoue, all of whom are now major contributors.
Caldwell’s main strength has been in the draft, but notice that their drafts have gotten better as time has gone along. In 2014, Caldwell and the Jaguars selected Blake Bortles with the third overall pick. They soon realized it was a reach with the amount of major talent that was still on the board at that point. So in the following years they stuck with the strategy of balancing positional needs with taking the best player available and that led to their monster draft in 2016 (Ramsey, Jack, Ngakoue). The Jaguars haven’t been big players in free agency during their rebuild but that may change now that a solid core is in place.
There are similarities between David Caldwell and Mike Maccagnan. Both are yet to find their franchise QB. Both have a good eye for defensive talent at the top of the draft. But Caldwell has definitely checked both boxes in his time in Jacksonville. The Jaguars are a better team and headed in the right direction. It goes to show you, finding a franchise QB shouldn’t be the lone deciding factor in properly evaluating a GM. But it’s also worth noting that a big difference between Caldwell and Maccagnan is that Caldwell hit on the draft picks at premium positions (1 CB & 2 OLB’s).
It takes patience to see a GM’s plan come to fruition. However, Maccagnan is rounding up year 3 and its about now that the blueprint should be taking shape. How would you evaluate him? Are the Jets better than they were before he got here? Are they headed in the right direction?
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