Patience and good general manager moves are paying off
By Hillary Garza
All it takes is a little patience and good personnel moves by a general manager for a team to play good football. Such is the case with Mike Maccagnan and the New York Jets.
Wow, I’m so proud of my New York Jets right now! The last time I’ve felt this excited at the start of a new season was the first few weeks of 2009—Mark Sanchez’s rookie year—when the Jets upset the New England Patriots 16-9 at the old Giants Stadium. We had seen on that day recent draft picks such as Darrelle Revis, Nick Mangold, David Harris, Dustin Keller, and D’Brickashaw Ferguson blossoming into top-tier players.
In addition, there were free agent acquisitions making a difference; Bart Scott and Jim Leonhard in particular. Veteran players Shaun Ellis, Calvin Pace, Jerricho Cotchery, and Thomas Jones were already in place. On that September day, everything seemed to gel at the right moment, and the Jets not only pulled off the upset of the New England Patriots but it seemed as if we could expect better days ahead.
Indeed, the Jets went all the way to the AFC Championship game that year. And guess what? That vibe I felt in 2009 was similar to what I experienced at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, as the Jets eeked out a win against the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jets have won two in a row and play a winnable game against Cleveland next week. Potentially, the Jets could be 3-2 record before the Patriots come to town.
Speaking of the Patriots, the Jets are now tied with them after four games. Who could have predicted that scenario? Certainly not all the doomsayers and so-called experts. Now I feel the tide is turning. More importantly, we can finally put to rest all of the nonsensical “tank” talking.
Make no mistake about it, the reasons for the Jets sudden fortune is all about the young, rock-solid defense led by the two stud safeties, Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye. Add to the mix a formidable defensive line that includes Leonard Williams, Kony Ealy, Muhammad Wilkerson, and a resurgent Demario Davis at linebacker, the Jets defense has performed admirably during the two-game winning streak. But the biggest surprise is the offense!
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The two-headed running back tandem of Bilal Powell and Elijah McGuire is a force to be reckoned with, and will no doubt make it tough for defensive coordinators to match up against when they play the Jets.
Robby Anderson has shown to be more than just a one-trick-pony as a deep threat. He’s now a full-fledged NFL receiver, adding a complete repertoire of routes to his game. Jermaine Kearse is a sure-handed, steady, solid player, with championship pedigree. And finally, the Jets have a legitimate tight end threat in Austin Seferian-Jenkins.
But with all that said, general manager Mike Maccagnan deserves the most credit. His moves have been scrutinized, in particular drafting Christian Hackenberg in the second round, but as far as I’m concerned he’s batting a thousand in improving this team significantly from last season. Especially those under-the-radar moves, which aren’t flashy but get the most bang for the buck. For example, claiming Kony Ealy off the waiver wire, a player who wasn’t good enough for the Patriots but is now arguably the defensive player of the year for the Jets.
Really? Is that even supposed to happen? You mean to tell me that the Jets are benefitting from a mistake made by the Patriots? When was the last time that happened? How about Elijah McGuire in the sixth round? Yes, you heard that right, the sixth round. McGuire was superb on Sunday, and the sky’s the limit for him. Let’s see if you can name the last Jets player selected that late in the draft whose made the kind of impact McGuire has made already. Other than Quincy Enunwa in 2014, there’s not one sixth-round draft pick that has stood out at all for the Jets in recent memory.
Trading with the Cleveland Browns for Davis was another crafty move by Maccagnan. The trade cost the Jets only first-round draft pick bust Calvin Pryor, who’s no longer with Browns. Davis was always a solid run-stopper for the Jets, but he’s elevated his game this year.
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And finally, the scrutiny Maccagnan received after he signed a 38-year old quarterback who lost 20 of his last 22 starts before 2017 was pretty intense. The usual Jets bashers claimed that McCown was a perfect fit—a losing quarterback for a losing team. But it is clear that McCown is not a loser, but has been unfortunate to be on losing teams. Put some talent around him and he’s good, as we are seeing now.
McCown wasn’t great on Sunday, but he doesn’t have to be, and it’s not a realistic assumption that he’ll ever be great. If he continues to manage the offense like he’s done the last two weeks, the Jets should be in good hands. And let’s not forget that the Jets could have signed a very dazed and confused looking Jay Cutler over McCown. It’s early, but Cutler appears as if he should have opted for the cushy broadcaster job.
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So it should go without saying that at the moment I’m a happy camper as is probably the case with many Jets fans. What I’m most pleased about is the progress. Instead of watching a terrible team this year with the hope that it will lead to better days, instead, we are experiencing the progress much sooner than expected and that’s a good thing. Overall, I’m very happy with the Jets progress so far. I couldn’t accept the Jets ever being the laughingstock of the league. And for those misguided fans trying to hold out for the Jets and thinking there’s still time to “suck for Sam,” or whatever catchy phrase you come up with, I suggest you get back on board the Jets train and root for your team. It’s going to be a fun ride and I wouldn’t want you to miss it.