By Ernie Palladino
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While Dave Gettleman sets about blowing up the structure of the Giants’ front office, hiring a new coach, and filling his roster with presumably more enthusiastic faces, the Jets handed Mike Maccagnan and Todd Bowles and edict disguised as a New Year’s gift.
By extending both leaders by two years, they effectively told the general manager and head coach that they have one, two years at most, to fix their 5-11 team and get back to the playoffs.
Do that, or they won’t reach 2020. No chance.
You see, five wins might have sufficed in a year where most predicted a Cleveland Browns-type of faceplant. But that won’t fly in the coming years.
The postseason becomes a must-have now. Not necessarily the AFC East title, mind you. Even Woody and Christopher Johnson aren’t delusional enough to expect their team to move into a piece of real estate the NFL long ago deeded to the New England Patriots. But a wild card will do splendidly. And a win on the first weekend of the postseason would probably have Woody and Chris building statues to both Bowles and Maccagnan.
It’s not like they’re just going to walk into the playoffs, though. The Jets haven’t qualified since 2010, and have had only one winning season since.
In football years, that’s an eternity. Just ask the Buffalo Bills, who partied Sunday after the Ravens handed them their first postseason berth since 1999. Talk about eternities!
That said, it’s never easy for the Jets, either.
For once, though, the Johnson and Johnson duo did more than put one of their ancestor’s patented Band-Aids on the problem. They went with a stability more commonly found down the MetLife Stadium hallway.
So now, as Gettleman finds a replacement for Marc Ross, the VP of player evaluation he just fired, prepares to interview Texans head coach Bill O’Brien and Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz (not to mention reportedly sitting down with Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia), and finds some players who hate the idea of losing more than the just-cut right tackle Bobby Hart and barely-there cornerback Eli Apple, the Jets at least have their hierarchy intact.
Whether that’s good or bad remains to be seen. But at least Maccagnan will have around $100 million of salary cap space to find out. That’s what last year’s roster trimming was all about.
With Muhammad Wilkerson presumably heading off the roster — he remained inactive for the finale against the Patriots on Sunday — they’ll need another quality defensive lineman. The offensive line could use some work. And another receiver to go with Jermaine Kearse, Robby Anderson, and healing Quincy Enunwa would be nice.
They would have to put together quite a trade to draft a Sam Darnold, assuming he comes out, or Josh Rosen, but they might just be in position to take a second-tier quarterback. Or, some of that cap space could go to someone like Washington’s Kirk Cousins.
There’s a lot of work to do, but at least the Jets have the money and draft position to do it.
They can add a plucky culture to that. The 2017 Jets laid down for nobody. And now they’ll take into the New Year the knowledge that a team that wasn’t supposed to win more than two games actually won five and lost six others by a touchdown or less.
It’s not often that a GM/coach combo survives consecutive five-win seasons. A pair of 6-10 seasons undid Tom Coughlin, and only a free agent spending spree and trip to the 2016 playoffs saved Jerry Reese before this year’s fiasco. So Bowles and Maccagnan must consider themselves lucky.
They get another chance to continue moving their team in a positive direction.
But rest assured, if 2018 doesn’t produce a winner, if not a playoff team, the Jets will find themselves in the same situation as the Giants did this year.
The confidence of ownership extends only so far.
In Bowles’ and Maccagnan’s case, it goes to 2020.
And that’s only if there’s a playoff team or two in the interim.
Please follow Ernie on Twitter at @ErniePalladino