After years in a churlish Rex Ryan/Buttfumble daze, NFL insiders looked at the New York Jets 2015 hiring of head coach Todd Bowles and general manager Mike Maccagnan as the adults are finally in charge. How could have all these experts been so off-base?
General managers get judged by their drafts. And in fairness, one can even defend the occasional brutal draft decision. Surely, every serious NFL fan can wax poetic on their team’s tragic choices. But of New York Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan‘s four drafts, he whiffed on at least two.
Gang Green’s coach Todd Bowles is a proven defensive coordinator. But he is clearly ineffective as a teacher and as a motivator of young men. How else can one explain week after week, year after year, of his teams making the same exact mistakes and meltdowns?
The players insist that they have not quit on Bowles yet they continue to perform down to his tolerance level. Sure, they love their coach — but who wouldn’t love adult treatment without any accountability? There are no consequences to these brutal truths.
So what we’re really dealing with is dysfunction on an organizational level. Green Bay just fired a Super Bowl-winning coach, while the Chiefs are announcing new contracts for high-character contributors — while these Jets owners seem to just sit on their hands and hope for things to magically improve. Here are four Social Distortion songs to help explain the Jets overall lack of mojo.
4. Ball and Chain
Beyond successful drafts, the lifeblood to any robust NFL franchise is in their undrafted free agent pool. But Maccagnan’s UDFA moves have been somewhere between non-existent and overrated.
To think this GM refused an Eagles’ offseason swap of a fourth-rounder for Robby Anderson. Five months later, ya couldn’t get back a bag of footballs for the most overhyped UDFA in Jets history. Injured USC flanker Deontay Burnett has already displayed to be a better teammate for Sam Darnold offering far better chemistry than with Anderson.
Then there’s the issue of free agent signings; determining which homegrown talent to reward and which guns-for-hire to import. But jettisoning certain 2018 Pro Bowler Demario Davis for Avery Williamson is at best a wash; neither tough MLB can effectively cover a tight end over the middle.
There’s been considerable media propaganda extolling Trader Mike’s under-the-radar moves. But it’s not like in his four years, he’s brought in any rising stars. Darryl Roberts and Mike Pennel have become contributors. This season’s few bright spots include OLB Brandon Copland, D-lineman Henry Anderson, and kicker Jason Myers.
Camp sensation Frankie Luvu has shown NFL flashes at weak-side linebacker. Rumblings are that the only practice squadders showing true promise are safety Brandon Bryant and ILB Anthony Wint. But if that’s the case, why can’t either young defender crack this deficient 53-man roster?
Next: 3. I Was Wrong
3. I Was Wrong
The ABCs of talent evaluation are also up for debate. It’s one thing to err in breaking down tape. But how can Florham Park continue to give up on quality talent already under their control?
Case in point: sure-handed Jersey Shore kid TE Anthony Firkser, dumped early last training camp and now excelling for the Titans. His revenge TD against Gang Green last week must’ve tasted sweet. Who was the genius who eschewed this Harvard-bred talent, for Eric Tomlinson — whose brutal Jets résumé of drive-killing, boneheaded penalties far exceeds his NFL reception totals?
It’s rough enough that the only NFL-grade guards left standing are Brian Winters and Dakota Dozier. They and Quincy Enunwa are the last embers of the John Idzik error. Yet all there’s to show for this current GM’s drafted linemen and receivers are Brandon Shell and Charone Peake!
Let’s not forget that this front office considered Chad Hansen and ArDarius Stewart to be serious long-term offensive solutions. And one must question the acumen of any team who thought they could replace legendary cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie by developing some blend of Juston Burris, Jeremy Clark, Derrick Jones and Rashard Robinson (acquired from the Niners for a fifth-rounder!).
If a typical NFL organization includes 70 players, between active roster, practice squad and various injury/reserved lists, these Jets have, at most, 10% worth retaining. After Darnold, Enunwa, Chris Herndon, Leonard Williams, Jamal Adams, Avery Williamson, Jordan Jenkins, and maybe the IR’d Marcus Maye, no other Gang Green gridder has earned their keep. Do you place your trust in another Trader Mike three-year-plan?
Next: 2. Another State of Mind
2. Another State of Mind
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Like a bottle of fine wine turned rancid, Bowles’ coaching skills become harder to swallow. It’s a sad statement that this former defensive coordinator’s only potent efforts came in three early season games in which he had to design schemes, as Kacy Rodgers was on a temporary leave of absence.
Bowles has shown a willingness to flex his muscle, by simply refusing to play Maccagnan’s subpar talent. Sure, he had reason to shun Christian Hackenberg. Especially after he reportedly pushed the front office to select Alvin Kamara. But at this point, how can we know if this year’s benched draftees Nathan Shepherd and Parry Nickerson are just raw talents ensnared in a blood feud?
But this was the same coaching staff that “needed” third-round flameout ArDarius Stewart, and $72 Million “lockdown corner” Trumaine Johnson, the latter living up to his well-earned, well-known rep for “taking plays off.” And it was Bowles and Rodgers who gave the GM their blessings to scuttle Pro Bowler to-be Damon Harrison in favor of $86 Million to Muhammad Wilkerson.
Football is a game of planned preparation and execution, and of capitalizing on others’ mistakes. Most damning about Bowles is that even if he can’t control the physical talent, he can certainly mentally ready and rally his troops. This coach must be gone because, after four seasons, he still engenders the same sloppy rookie mistakes.
Next: 1. Bad Luck
1. Bad Luck
This Sunday, we prepared for a battle of 2018 first-round QBs, between the Bills’ Josh Allen and the Jets’ rehabilitated Sam Darnold. But 48 hours before kickoff, Bowles was still evasive about naming his starting QB.
Classic Todd Bowles. Perhaps he thought he could shock Buffalo into his own level of confusion and overconfidence, like last month when Matt Barkley got off his couch for the first time since 2016 to utterly humiliate Bowles’ unmotivated and unprepared defense at MetLife.
Don’t place all the blame on Bowles and Maccagnan. They’re not the problem, and they’re not the solution. The root causes for this dysfunction trace back to an organization both poorly structured and inexplicably operated. The Johnson ain’t “football guys” — when it comes to running this team, they still don’t seem to know what the heck they’re doing.
In two decades, ownership has done damage. They angered Bill Belichick in their Bill Parcells mess, alienated Bill Cowher by mishandling a job interview, and trashed Eric Mangini and Chad Pennington to “bromance” an over-with Brett Favre. Then they wrecked Rex Ryan with John Idzik, botched the Maccagnan/Bowles shotgun wedding, and even chose to share a second-rate stadium in the Swamp over their own gleaming new football mecca on the West Side Highway by Chelsea Piers. Now, there’s every indication of this franchise flubbing their sure-thing talent Sam Darnold. How’s that Route 3 parking lot tailgate tasting now, Jets fans?