Jan 21, 2015; Florham Park, NJ, USA; New York Jets new general manager Mike Maccagnan speaks during a press conference at Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. Mandatory Credit: William Perlman/NJ Advance Media for NJ.com via USA TODAY Sports
The most significant key to the dramatic improvement of the NY Jets in 2015 lies at the top, as general manager Mike Maccagnan has constructed a talented roster that will continue to contend in the years ahead.
Coming off a 4-12 season and a four-year span during which they failed to post a single winning season, the Jets needed to make dramatic changes.
Jets’ owner Woody Johnson aggressively approached this past off-season, making changes at the top. Former general manager John Idzik, an executive who was so good at staying under the cap that he forgot to acquire talent in the process, was immediately relieved of his duties.
In his place, the organization brought in Mike Maccagnan. Their faith in the scouting guru was well-placed, as the Jets made a dramatic and immediate turn around in 2015 (10-6).
There are many variables (ie. soft schedule, solid coaching) that have played a role in the success of this season’s Jets. Without Maccagnan’s brilliant front office work, however, the Jets would never have contended in 2015.
Don’t believe me? Then let’s take a quick look at all Maccagnan has accomplished in one short year.
Next: 2015 NFL Draft
Apr 30, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Leonard Williams (Southern California) poses for a photo after being selected as the number sixth overall pick to the New York Jets in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
2015 NFL Draft
Although Idzik was masterful at stockpiling draft picks, he was generally ineffective at using them. He found a few gems (Sheldon Richardson, Calvin Pryor), but most of his picks are either plagued with question marks (Dexter McDougle, Dee Milliner, Jace Amaro) or are just outright busts (Geno Smith, Jalen Saunders, Shaquelle Evans).
While it is too early to make a final judgment on Maccagnan’s ability to draft talent, early indications are promising. Potential Defensive Rookie of the Year Leonard Williams was a steal with the sixth overall pick. Lorenzo Maudlin has shown promise as a pass rusher (four sacks as a rookie), and Jets fans remain eager to see what Bryce Petty might have to offer behind center. If Devin Smith is able to rebound from his rookie struggles and develop into a viable deep threat, the 2015 Jets draft will have been particularly good.
Next: Free Agency/Trades
Jan 3, 2016; Orchard Park, NY, USA; New York Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall (15) celebrates his touchdown catch against the Buffalo Bills during the first half at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports
Free Agency/ Trades
Football fans familiar with Maccagnan’s background (over 20 years of scouting experience) are not surprised with the success he has in the draft.
What may be surprising, however, is the tremendous amount of success he has already had acquiring talent via trades and free agency.
Idzik was a cap expert, a numbers guy. While he was great at saving money and helping the Jets to stay under the cap, he was seldom able or willing to pull the trigger on significant moves (barring the Eric Decker signing).
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Maccagnan took a different approach. Inheriting a massive amount of cap space from Idzik, he went on a wild spending spree.
Along the way, Maccagnan spent quarterback money on cornerbacks (over $120 million offered in contracts to Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie and Buster Skrine) and boosted the offensive line (signed guard James Carpenter, re-signed guard Willie Colon).
While his free agency moves were generally effective, Maccagnan’s work in the trade market was nothing short of brilliant. For a few irrelevant late draft picks (5th and 6th round), he acquired a quarterback-wide receiver duo (Ryan Fitzpatrick, Brandon Marshall) that went on to shatter multiple franchise records. The Marshall acquisition alone should fetch Maccagnan multiple votes for Executive of the Year.
Next: Looking Ahead
Dec 6, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan before a game against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Unfortunately for Maccagnan and the Jets, the leap from good to great can be particularly challenging. The Jets have several key decisions to make at free agency, and will undoubtedly need to cut some veterans to stay under the cap (Cromartie and Jeremy Kerley remain among the most likely cuts). The team also needs to utilize the draft to get younger and faster.
However, for the first time in years, Jets fans can take solace knowing their franchise has found a capable and aggressive leader in the front office.