This was a more eventful last Friday of the season than many of us expected. The Jets gave general manager Mike Maccagnan and head coach Todd Bowles two year contract extensions that run through 2020.
I don’t think this was an easy decision. At this point, the pair has not been terribly effective at leading the franchise. In three years at the helm, the Jets have been a 20-27 (.426) team. Even that might be overselling the performance so far. The won-lost record in the first season is the least important for any regime. Since the first year, the Jets are a 10-21 (.323) team.
On the day these guys first set foot in the team facility, the Jets were a team that had little talent and a lot of cap space. Almost three years later, the Jets are a team that has little talent and a lot of cap space.
People frequently talk about stability in the NFL, but sometimes ineffective performers keep their jobs for too long in the name of stability. Recent examples from the Jets include assistant coaches like Brian Schottenheimer and a head coach in Rex Ryan. Sometimes when you aim for stability, you just end up wasting seasons by extending the tenures of uncapable people.
Even with this in mind, I do support these extensions, albeit in a less than enthusiastic way.
You might wonder how I could support this move given what I said above. The answer is simple. This isn’t solely a question of how the regime has performed over the last three years. The Jets had to choose between two different paths, and the alternative is worse.
The more I watch the NFL, the more I feel like teams need to give the people they hire four years to work things out in all but extreme cases. Sometimes people like John Idzik and Ben McAdoo appear who are so far in over their heads that they need to be put out of their misery within two years, but those instances should be kept to a minimum.
Why do I say that? Stability does not guarantee success, but constantly changing regimes every two to three years guarantees your franchise will not be successful.
I am not speaking anecdotally by saying something like, “Look at the Browns.” All you need is common sense to understand this. A coaching change means you are changing systems. A new coach comes in and inherits a roster built for the last guy’s system. There will be a few players who fit, but the new coach will want to bring in his guys.
Most Draft picks really start maturing in years two and three. Right as these guys are starting to come into their own, in comes a new system. Keep repeating that process every two to three years, and see what comes of it.
Then you have the front office. The NFL is structured in a bit of an odd way. Teams hire new general managers as the regular season ends. Almost all of the hiring for other front office people comes after the Draft. So any GM will likely conduct his first Draft with the lieutenants of the previous regime. Take a guess how it works out if every two to three Drafts is conducted this way.
Once the new front office does come into place, it is like any new company. People have to get used to each other. The team as a whole has to figure out who does what well. What does it do poorly as a group? These things take time to figure out. Do it every two to three years, and you always find yourself in the figure it out phase.
And figuring things out is part of the job for general managers and head coaches in the league like Maccagnan and Bowles. Doing these jobs in the NFL isn’t easy. Sometimes greatness doesn’t come as quickly as fans would like. It takes time and learning from mistakes to do the job effectively. If you look at the resumes of many great executives and head coaches, you will find a greatest hits list of bloopers. Some teams have lived to regret not giving their people ample time to grow into the job.
I also think it was smart to take some of the pressure off this regime heading into a big offseason. You don’t want people thinking their job is on the line with around $90 million in the bank. That’s when you get desperate short-sighted decisions to improve the team in the short run at the expense of the long run.
None of this is to suggest a team can never make a change. Sometimes it is necessary. I do think fans are quick to demand wholesale changes at the first sign of trouble, however, without considering how disruptive and damaging these changes can be. Sometimes the price is worth paying. But there is a price.
I don’t think the Jets are in a spot where paying that price makes sense. We are three years into this regime.
I don’t think that should be confused for satisfaction with the job done so far, though. We are three years into this regime, and there has not been enough progress yet.
Things have to get better and soon. If they don’t, nobody will be able to say the Jets lacked patience with their general manager and head coach.