Fennelly: Jets GM Mike Maccagnan Fighting Uphill Battle in Trying to Turn These Jets Into Winners

New York Jets GM Mike Maccagnan is a smart guy. At least we think he is. He just happens to be in a bad spot. Anyone charged with turning the New York Jets into winners is inherently in a pickle. Many have tried, few have succeeded. If insanity is doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results, then Maccagnan has little chance of succeeding. The Jets are an unusual combination of unlucky and bad.

Maccagnan has been working in football since 1990, when he was hired as a scouting intern by the Washington Redskins. He spent years in scouting and personnel after that, in the World League of American Football, NFL Europe, the CFL and then back to the NFL with the Redskins and the Houston Texans. He was hired by the Jets as their GM after the 2014 season.

He was hired directly by owner Woody Johnson but was not afforded the opportunity to hire his own head coach. Johnson did that for him, tabbing Todd Bowles, an assistant with the Arizona Cardinals. Their first season was a success. Maccagnan inherited an under performing roster and he and Bowles went out and picked up a slew of veterans, most notably WR Brandon Marshall and QB Ryan Fitzpatrick.

The Jets surprised the league with a 10-6 record, but missed the playoffs. 2016 would not turn out the same. Many of the players who shone brightly in 2015 fell flat, and with a poor foundation to draw from, so did the Jets, finishing 11-5. Maccagnan decided to blow up the team and start over.

Starting from scratch is not easy in any business. The NFL is no different. Maccagnan is in a quandary having been handed a shaky foundation. The first year was easy. He had an abundance of salary cap space and filled his roster needs with free agents. Unfortunately, those free agents were fragile and he realized that was not the way to go, so he parted ways with many of them, and some of his other costly veterans.

The real issue here is the Jets had drafted poorly before Maccagnan arrived among other things. Under previous administrations, they made hasty decisions and ill-advised moves when it came to personnel and now it’s up to Maccagnan to scorch the earth and then try to plant again.

This past weekend, he did just about all he humanly could to restock his barren arsenal at the NFL Draft. Looking up and down his roster, he had little or nothing to hang his hat on that he hadn’t put there himself.

Of the players he inherited, many of them aren’t fitting the new mold. DL Sheldon Richardson is an excess part he has been trying to rid himself of and QB Geno Smith, CB Dee Milliner and TE Jace Amaro are already either on other team’s roster or in the wind.

Now, it appears he has found a replacement for 2014 first round pick, safety Calvin Pryor, with this year’s top choice, Jamal Adams. Maccagnan is trying to strategically put his stamp on the Jets, but he may run out of time before he can complete his quest. At the moment, Johnson is not putting any pressure on him as much of what he’s done is still a work in progress.

A lot will be determined by if one of his QB selections the past two years, Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg, turns into a franchise player. Petty is unlikely that guy, so it will up to Hackenberg to prove Maccagnan right. Bowles says the QB competition will be wide open between those two and veteran free agent Josh McCown, 38. The Jets are hoping they were right about both youngsters and that McCown goes back to doing what he does best – being a backup.

But don’t kid yourself about any of this. Maccagnan will get another year from Johnson, even though he was given a near impossible task to perform. If the Jets don’t get better by 2018, they’ll go in a new direction again for the umpteenth time in as many years.



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