Let's go back to December 21st. The Jets had just lost to the Patriots 17-16 to drop to 3-12. The most popular news story around Florham Park was the Fire John Idzik movement. It was no longer a question whether or not Rex Ryan would be fired. Officially missing their 4th straight postseason, the Jets franchise was in complete chaos.
The offseason overhaul began with one of Woody Johnson's smartest decisions since becoming owner and would set the tone for calming the storm. Not only did he fire both Idzik and Ryan, which allowed for a completely revamped and much-needed culture change, but he also hired the experienced minds of Ron Wolf and Charley Casserly to help find their replacements. It's no secret that Woody is not the most brilliant football mind, but good leaders learn how to delegate responsibility in their own areas of weakness. The first result was GM Mike Maccagnan, a desperately needed talent evaluator who worked through the ranks beginning as a scout in the CFL. The second was HC Todd Bowles, a well-respected, no-nonsense defensive mind whose former boss Bruce Arians called a "no brainer" head coach.
With a ton of cap space to work with, Maccagnan made several huge moves to reinvigorate talent back into the roster. No signing was bigger than the snatching of Darrelle Revis away from the New England Patriots. Bringing home Revis bolsters the secondary, of course, but also instills a sense of leadership, discipline, and accountability, all of which were visibly absent in practices and games in 2014. Maccagnan would also make a big splash on offense, trading a 5th round pick for the highly talented Brandon Marshall and a 7th round pick (used to acquire Zac Stacy). Marshall, a true #1 big-bodied receiver, would also come $3 million cheaper against the cap than if the Jets decided to keep Percy Harvin. It's understood that Bowles, who spent 2 years with Marshall in Miami, gave Maccagnan a more personal insight into Marshall's profile, easing concerns about his previous off-the-field issues. What a difference it can make when the GM and HC are on the same page. Other notable transactions include Antonio Cromartie, Buster Skrine, Marcus Gilchrist, Stevan Ridley and the re-signing of David Harris.
Moving to the draft, those watching on NFL Network may remember Mike Mayock saying, "Wow, the hometown Chicago Bears might land the best player of the draft at #7". Instead, Maccagnan stayed true to his strategy of best player available and drafted Leonard Williams, arguably the best defensive prospect since Ndamukong Suh. Highly praised for his first draft, Maccagnan also added a DeSean Jackson type flyer in Devin Smith, an impact mauler in Lorenzo Mauldin, and an insurance policy quarterback who some evaluators said had the best arm strength in the draft. If Geno Smith never pans out in New York, there are much worse places to start over than Bryce Petty with some experience in the NFL.
After all free agent signings and a seemingly very successful draft, it's pretty remarkable how quickly things were turned around over the last 7 months. The Jets were in a very dark place not so long ago and to even have a hope of making the playoffs this year is a testament to how successful this offseason was, beginning at the top with Woody. As Bowles reminded us, the Jets only look improved on paper right now, but there is a lot of reason to be excited. Beginning with today's first practice, we will begin to see the persona this new team takes on and if the offseason hype can translate into a healthy number in the W column and a playoff birth.