Maccagnan, Bowles Are Mysteries, But Have The Reps To Suggest They're Quality Hires

By Jeff Capellini
WFAN.com

For the first time in a long time the Jets have a little bit of a buzz about them.

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It’s impossible to predict how long it will last, but it’s a far cry from what we were subjected to during the sordid 2014 season.

The difference between this regime change and the countless that have come before it is this time no one can say the Jets weren’t diligent, or that they reached, or that they didn’t think through the hiring of new general manager Mike Maccagnan and head coach Todd Bowles.

The Jets literally did as well as they could have considering the market.

And the fans by and large seem pleased. That in itself should speak volumes, because, these are Jets fans after all. Happiness is not a God-given right.

Sure, there are always crazies out there who insist they know who the best candidates are and how a failure to bring in this guy or that guy will result in another five years of frustration, but the Jets in this instance secured two men that are respected league-wide and whose first real opportunities to sit in their respective big chairs were considered long overdue.

Of the two, Maccagnan is definitely more of the mystery. He had spent 25 years as a personnel man in the NFL, including the last 15 in Houston working his way up ladders, creating relationships and honing his craft as a talent evaluator.

Charley Casserly swears by him, and since owner Woody Johnson was universally applauded for hiring the longtime NFL executive as a consultant, along with fellow lifer Ron Wolf, we should feel confident that the man the owner trusts the most has complete faith in the new GM.

That’s why teams hire consultants, especially ones with stellar resumes like Casserly and Wolf.

Maccagnan is going to have a very short honeymoon, because too much damage was done to the franchise and the fan base under John Idzik. The Jets’ new GM is going to have to figure out a way to improve the quarterback situation, retool the offensive line, rebuild his linebacking corps and solidify his secondary, all under the watchful eyes of fans so fed up with the idea of fiscal responsibility they could spit.

Depending on the calls the Jets make on some of their veteran players — Percy Harvin and his $10 million salary for 2015 being the most pressing — they stand to be more than $40 million under the salary cap once the free agency period opens at 4 p.m. on March 10. Considering the nonsense Idzik pulled with his endless rebuilding plan that featured a personal aloofness at a time requiring the keenest of senses, Maccagnan will be expected to be ultra-aggressive in a free agent market that may be one of the best in recent memory, if you don’t count quarterback.

Of course, that’s where the Jets likely need their most significant upgrade, so it’s going to be interesting to see how Maccagnan positions incumbent Geno Smith and what he decides is the best course of action for maximizing his development. Will there be a competition fans can believe in? Will Maccagnan try to make a trade for an upgrade? Will he use the draft as his personal proving ground?

The answers to those questions will go a long way toward determining if Maccagnan will be accepted and trusted by the fans. Too many years of front office failure have rightfully turned the paying public skeptical of anyone put in place by Johnson.

But the good news is everything we’ve heard about Maccagnan suggests he won’t be the sequel to Idzik. That’s as good a place to start as any.

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Jeff Darlington, a league insider for the NFL Network, told WFAN’s Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts on Wednesday morning that Maccagnan may not be Mr. Personalty, but is a “grinder” behind the scenes, very thorough in everything he does. He said the Jets’ new GM is always prepared and takes pride in evaluation, which is why he will get an extensive budget to put together the best possible scouting department, something the Jets haven’t had in years.

Maccagnan also seems quite malleable, meaning he should fit in fine next to Bowles, who has been characterized as Rex Ryan-like when it comes to his defensive schemes and the anti-Rex Ryan when it comes to basically everything else.

Bowles, who coached the Jets’ defensive backs in 2000 and has fostered a reputation as a tireless worker, innovator and leader in all of the jobs he’s held since, is said to be more of the quiet type and certainly not someone who will be into waging wars against the media.

Like Maccagnan, Bowles is a New Jersey native, and was considered one of the top candidates on the head coaching market. When the news came down Tuesday night that the former Arizona defensive coordinator would be joining the Jets, countless media types tweeted that the opportunity couldn’t have been given to a more deserving guy.

In other words, Bowles is no stranger to paying his dues, is not allergic to the requisite work ethic needed to succeed, and it’s highly doubtful the treacherous waters that can be the New York City market will come anywhere close to swallowing him whole.

Bowles is a disciple of Bill Parcells and the Hall of Fame coach had reportedly pushed his young protege for several openings over the last few years. The fact that the first big chance Bowles is getting is with the Jets, the team Parcells once took within one bad half of Super Bowl XXXIII following a massive rebuilding project, is somewhat apropos.

The Jets have a million holes, but the one place where they should continue to be solid is along the defensive line. If ever there was a person to replace Ryan and maintain the excellence of that facet of the game, it’s Bowles, who has been hailed as an extremely creative defensive mind who gets the most out of all of his players, not just the starters.

What remains to be seen is how Bowles will handle an offense that has been brutal for many years. How much will he oversee and how much will he drop on the shoulders of his offensive coordinator, who, according to reports, is going to be former NFL coach and veteran play-caller Chan Gailey?

I get the hunch that the things that undid the tenures of Idzik and Ryan with the Jets will not be repeated by Maccagnan and Bowles. So much of what has ailed this team during its run of four straight seasons without a playoff berth has been a product of the dysfunctional atmosphere created off the field, be it fueled by inexperience or arrogance, or offshoots of both.

I have no idea what the Jets will be next season or a few seasons from now, but I’m optimistic that the mistakes of the past will stay in the past. This franchise finally seems like it’s on the road to doing things the right way and that the days of an unorthodox approach to building a winner are in the rearview.

We don’t know what Maccagnan and Bowles are, but it already looks like they are massive upgrades over their predecessors.

Why? Because, if nothing else, they are grown-ups.

Read more columns by Jeff Capellini and follow him on Twitter at @GreenLanternJet

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