NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — While Todd Bowles clings for dear life to his position as head coach of the Jets, the architect of this franchise’s latest mess apparently is not on the hot seat.
According SNY’s Ralph Vacchiano, general manager Mike Maccagnan’s job is safe, despite the facts that the Jets are 3-7 and trending badly downward, and his record over the last two-plus seasons is the same as Bowles’ — 13-27.
It appears Maccagnan is being given a pass because his four first-round draft picks have worked out. Leonard Williams, who was selected No. 6 overall back in 2015, has developed into a fine defensive end, and would probably be even better if he had more talent around him. Undersized but speedy Darron Lee, who was taken 20th overall in 2016, has shown flashes of being a mainstay among the linebacker corps. Jamal Adams, taken sixth overall last year, is fast becoming one of the better safeties in the NFL.
Then there’s the curious case of Sam Darnold, who Maccagnan paid a stiff price to the Indianapolis Colts back in April to move up to No. 3 in this year’s draft to select. Despite missing Sunday’s horrendous 41-10 loss to the Buffalo Bills and leading the league with 14 interceptions, Darnold has done enough so far to indicate that he will be at the very least a reliable franchise quarterback going forward.
Of course, the Jets are expected to fire Bowles after the season and bring in an entirely new coaching staff in 2019, so how Darnold adapts to a new offense will be something to monitor. He has long been touted for his intelligence, in addition to his physical tools, but it’s hard to say if any of the Jets’ current wide receivers will be around when he finally ascends to the next level.
Maccagnan has stated the idea during the Jets’ painful rebuild is for them to be in position to make the playoffs in 2019. The veteran executive is expected to have around $100 million in salary cap space this offseason to assist him in that pursuit.
But it’s important to note, part of the reason why the Jets have shown no real improvement over the last three seasons is because only 12 of the 22 players Maccagnan selected in the draft over his first three years are still with the organization and this year’s class is filled with question marks. While many other teams have hit the jackpot with later-round picks, the Jets have been living off of players like Williams, Lee, Adams and Darnold, with not much of a supporting cast.
A lot of that has to do with Maccagnan’s failures in free agency, though his last two years were better than his first two.
In 2015 he caved to fan demands by re-signing Darrelle Revis, without knowing the future Hall of Fame cornerback had little left in the tank. Maccagnan also signed defensive back Antonio Cromartie and Buster Skrine. Cromartie lasted just the one season in his second go-around in New York and retired shortly after. Skrine hasn’t been worth the four-year, $25 million contract he received, nor was safety Marcus Gilchrist (four years, $22 million, released after 2016 season). However, Maccagnan deserves kudos for bringing in veteran guard James Carpenter, who was terrific the first two seasons before slipping, and for re-signing linebacker David Harris, who wasn’t the same player but remained a team leader throughout his 10-year run with the Jets.
The following year, Maccagnan did a lot more bad than good. His worst move was giving defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson a five-year, $86 million deal ($37 million guaranteed). Wilkerson went from being a fan favorite to a goat in a New York minute and was jettisoned after last season. Maccagnan also signed over-the-hill running back Matt Forte to a three-year contract, and, though it was probably a necessity at the time, gave Ryan Fitzpatrick a one-year $12 million deal and then watched the veteran QB fail to come anywhere close to the numbers he put up the year before. Maccagnan’s good moves included signing nose tackle Steve McLendon to replace free agency casualty Damon Harrison, and re-signing dependable running back Bilal Powell for three years.
In 2017, the Jets were cautious with their limited cash. After bringing back guard Brian Winters on a three-year contract, Maccagnan signed veteran quarterback Josh McCown to a one-year, $6 million deal, a move that really paid off as the then-38-year-old delivered the best statistical season of his long career before breaking his non-throwing hand in Week 14. Maccagnan then took fliers on veteran left tackle Kelvin Beachum and cornerback Mo Claiborne, with decent results over the last season-plus.
This year, Maccagnan had around $90 million to work with, but the jury is still out on how well he did. Trumaine Johnson was the big-ticket item, coming aboard for five years and $72 million, with $45 million guaranteed. However, the veteran corner has struggled with injuries and inconsistency. The Jets also signed running back Isaiah Crowell (three years), QB Teddy Bridgewater (one year, traded to New Orleans), receiver Terrelle Pryor (one year, eventually cut and now with Buffalo), center Spencer Long (four years, $27 million), receiver/kick returner Andre Roberts and re-signed Claiborne for one year.
The best move Maccagnan made was signing Avery Williamson to a three-year, $22.5 million contract. The veteran linebacker has been all over the field, leading the Jets with 78 combined tackles and adding three sacks.