It was another ho-hum loss for the 3-8 Jets on Sunday. The Jets have had a tough go this week but be sure to compare odds before you count them out. Given the losing streak, they’re bound to have very favourable odds. Especially with a coaching staff on the hottest of hot seats. Todd Bowles’ eventual firing is a foregone conclusion. Attention now shifts to General Manager Mike Maccagnan and his job status. The common consensus is that he will be retained despite his team’s 23-36 record over his tenure. Although I do not agree with it, the argument for keeping Maccagnan goes something like this: “After the 2016 collapse, he established a long-term rebuilding plan to compete in 2019, and he deserves to see his plan out.” Somewhere in that argument is the idea that he drafted a rookie quarterback this year and no one can expect to win with a rookie quarterback. Thus, next year is when we can truly evaluate Maccagnan’s tenure as GM.
This argument is dubious for a number of reasons. Most notably, it wasn’t Maccagnan’s intention to draft a rookie quarterback. It’s easy to forget, but the Jets’ Plan A this offseason was to sign veteran QB Kirk Cousins and presumably win now. The shroud of a rookie under center has given the Jets the appearance of a rebuilding team, but it is clear that Darnold is not the only piece holding the Jets back this season. It is fair to wonder if Maccagnan would be on the hot seat with Bowles if he had successfully recruited Kirk Cousins.
This year, Kirk Cousins has had a good but not great season. With wide receivers Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs at his disposal, Cousins has led the Vikings to a 6-4-1 record. Place Kirk Cousins on the Jets roster, and how many more wins does the team have? Realistically, Tom Brady would be hard-pressed to squeeze 9 wins out of this roster. A Cousins-led Jets squad probably wins 6 or 7 games. Bowles certainly would not survive a 6-win season with Cousins. Wouldn’t Maccagnan be fired too if his $30 million quarterback failed to bring the team to the playoffs? If the Jets had an established quarterback, more attention would be turned to Maccagnan’s deficiencies in providing talent throughout the rest of the roster. Keeping Maccagnan would be harder to rationalize, meaning he would likely go too.
As Joe has pointed out many times on this site, Maccagnan’s greatest strength as GM has been his ability to advance a narrative that postpones his burden to win. Last season, the team was rebuilding. This season, they have a rookie quarterback. What do you expect…wins? Had Kirk Cousins signed with the Jets, Maccagnan no longer would have been able to hide. Obtaining Cousins would have been seen as a failed, win-now decision highlighting the deeper problems that have plagued the team over the last four seasons–namely, horrendous drafting and equally bad coaching.
Whether Chris or Woody Johnson makes the final decision, I hope he looks beyond media narratives while assessing the general manager. He should ask himself whether the team’s record would be drastically different if Maccagnan landed his initial offseason target in Kirk Cousins. The answer is no because the team does not have the talent elsewhere. Maccagnan, who has had four years with no playoff appearances and no improvement, deserves to go–regardless of who quarterbacked the Jets this season.