The Pro Football Writers of America Executive of the Year award has been handed out since 1993. Until this week, no member of the Jets front office staff has ever won it. Exactly one year after taking up his post, Mike Maccagnan picked up this accolade Thursday. In an slightly prophetic comment last week, I suggested he might be in the running for such an award and this is certainly well deserved recognition for what he has achieved in his first year.
PFWA cited the change in fortunes of the Jets in their official press release as a key reason behind the choice of Maccagnan:“After a 4-12 season in 2014, the Jets had a huge turnaround in 2015 with a 10-6 record, just missing the AFC playoffs on the final day of the regular season.”
It’s hard to argue with this, especially as it was achieved with both a rookie GM and Head Coach at the helm. Maccagnan and the front office certainly set up Coach Bowles for success and arguably even more could have been expected from the roster he put together. As a result of the moves the GM made in the 2015 offseason, the Jets were, in many areas, unrecognizable from the team that failed so miserably under Rex Ryan in 2014. The list of acquisitions is impressive and more importantly impacted the team’s fortunes, showing shrewd judgement on the whole. Bringing back Darelle Revis was of course the blue-ribbon headline, but more quietly James Carpenter, Buster Skrine and Marcus Gilchrist quickly became key players. The trade for Brandon Marshall has been described as one of the most successful offseason moves of 2015 and the trade for Fitzpatrick, originally as a back up, has turned out to be more fortuitous than Maccagnan probably planned.
Drafting Leonard Williams was in the end an obvious but still possibly controversial move considering the needs elsewhere, but again this has turned out to be a good call which should only continue to bear fruit down the line. Lorenzo Mauldin is also a stand out pick and although Devin Smith didn’t exactly set the world on fire before his injury, he has potential as long as he finds his NFL feet. Maccagnan came in without fear of being decisive or of spending a plenty of the cap space John Idzik had been squirreling away for a rainy day.
Of course, there is still room for improvement and not every move Maccagnan made last year was fruitful. Antonio Cromartie in particular hasn’t lived up to expectations, showing he isn’t the same player he was the last time he dressed in green and white. Fans don’t necessarily begrudge the GM for signing a player with a good record and established relationship with the new head coach, but we didn’t see the return you’d expect for the $8 million guaranteed price tag. Although Cromartie was signed on a four year contract, there is no penalty if he is cut this year. Another possibility is to ask him to take a pay cut, freeing up at least some of the $8 million cap space he currently takes up.There are other big questions on the horizon for Maccagnan going forward into 2016. The cap space is currently around $11.3 million but to ensure that key free agents (Wilkerson, Harrison, Ivory, Fitzpatrick and even Powell) are retained it’s likely more space is needed. There is certain to be a great deal of scrutiny on how Maccagnan handles this, whilst still bringing in new faces in areas of need. The outcomes of these negotiations will likely dictate the direction taken, whether through free agency or the draft.
The Jets don’t have such a high draft pick as last, so that first round pick will have a different spin this year. Taking the best player available will likely still be the GM’s approach but filling development areas will be key, especially on the edge and the offensive line. What is impressive about Maccagnan though, is his hands on approach to scouting new Jets. This week he personally was spotted interviewing a range of prospects at the East-West Shrine game, a far cry from number cruncher John Idzik.
Without detracting from his success and obvious personnel acumen, the only way was up in 2015. It would have been hard to do much worse than 2014. Given the new set of issues he faces, It’ll be interesting to see how Maccagnan now handles this within the framework he has created rather than inherited. However, given the clear vision and willingness to take calculated risks, it seems that the Jets front office is certainly on the right tracks. An accolade such as Executive of the Year is just an extra pat on the back for a first year’s job well done.
–Photo Credit: NewYorkJets.com