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Was Mike Maccagnan really the right man for the job?

Or was the right man there for Mike Maccagnan

NFL: Combine Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

As we dive into the second half of the NFL 2018-19 season, the Jets are in an all too familiar place. Last place. At 3-7 and just coming off a bye-week, the New York Jets are in last place in the AFC East standings.

Why are we here? With a 1st round Quarterback, and some expensive free agent acquisitions, the consensus was that the Jets would have to improve from their 5-11, 2017-18 season some what. But as the season lingers, this consensus seems all but forgotten. Last year’s Jets team managed a 4-6 record at this point in the season with much less talent, and when looking at the remaining schedule it’s hard to imagine this team surpassing the 5 win total from a year ago. So who’s to blame?

Prior to the 2015 season Jets owner Woody Johnson brought in Ron Wolf and Charley Casserly as consultants for the hiring process of a new GM (and HC). They chose Mike Maccagnan to be the new GM for the Jets. Now although not much has been said on the input from Ron Wolf, the connections between Casserly and Maccagnan are very real. So the question begs to be asked, ‘Was Mike Maccagnan really the right person for the job?’ Or was this more of a case of who you know, instead of what you know.

The Casserly Connection

Charley Casserly and Mike Maccagnan are no strangers to each other. In fact, it was Casserly who gave Maccagnan his first job in the NFL as a scout for the Washington Redskins. That isn’t the end of their relationship, however. When Casserly became the GM for the Houston Texans he brought Maccagnan with him again, where the two were working together until Casserly’s departure in 2006. The two have a strong 20 year relationship; and although that can be good in some retrospect it can lead to favoritism and overlooking more qualified candidates. In fact, the bond between the two was so strong that..

Well, wasn’t that source spot on. Casserly has continued to praise the work of Maccagnan despite the team’s mediocre record under his tenure, going as far as naming the Jets one of five most improved teams heading into the 2018 season and labeling Terrelle Pryor as a ‘steal’. (We’ve seen how these two statements played out). Either this is hubris or delusion, but regardless it’s leaving a bad taste in the mouths of Jet fans.

Judging the Drafts

Mike Maccagnan has spent his entire career in the NFL as a scout. When someone from that background is hired as a GM, the assumption is that they’re generally very good at scouting talent within the draft. But has Maccagnan ever really been that successful? First we’ll take a look at the drafts he was largely responsible for in Houston from 2011-2014 (and presumably the basis for his hiring as Jets GM), and then we’ll see if there’s any major differences in comparison to his drafts with the Jets. (I have removed any kickers AND the 2018 draft off of my data)

1) Houston Texans

As director of college scouting, it’s safe to say that Maccagnan had major influence in the draft for the Texans. During this 4 year span 34 players were drafted. In that span he has managed to find 6 starters (3 now on different teams) and 7 backups. When judging success in the draft, I think player longevity with the team, as well as finding long-term starters are the most important aspects. Let’s see how Mike did.

A) If your draft picks from previous years are continuing to stick around on the 53 man roster, it means you did something right. Based on a 2014 study, the percentage of players still on the active roster of the team that drafted them (in any round) at the 5 year mark was 27.48%. When looking back through those Texans’ drafts, only 23.5% (8 of 34 — this includes Derek Newton, who on his 5th year was injured in Week 2 of 2016 and hasn’t played in the NFL since.) remained on the team at the 5 year mark. Out of the remaining 26, only six were still playing for an NFL team while the final majority (20) were out of the league/failed to make a 53 man roster within 3-5 years.

B) The other aspect of successful drafting is providing your team with starting-quality players for multiple years. Using the research of Patrick Rishe, I wanted to see how Maccagnan’s picks stacked up with the league average given in this sample size. (Sample was all 210 draftees from the 2010 draft class, and gauging the starting percentages of these players in a 5 year span, separated by their draft round.) The results are as follows (7th round was excluded in NFL AND Mac’s picks—both were 0.0).

  • NFL: Overall - 15%, 1st - 67.5%, 2nd - 33.8%, 3rd - 36.3%, 4th - 6.3%, 5th - 4.4%, 6th - 1.9%
  • Maccagnan: Overall - 17.6%, 1st - 75%, 2nd - 25%, 3rd - 16.6%, 4th - 16.6%, 5th - 0%, 6th - 0%

Looking at the numbers you notice a couple things. The first being that Mac is successful drafting in the first round. Although this is a good thing, I don’t believe successful 1st round draft picks constitute the label of a scouting guru. The more alarming factor to me is that Mac’s picks in the rest of rounds (minus the 4th round outlier) were below average. Especially rounds 2 and 3, where quality starters and depth pieces can still be found.

After reviewing his tenure, I wasn’t particularly impressed. For someone known with a drafting prowess, it was disheartening to see below-average numbers essentially across the board. And although credit must be given for picks like J.J. Watt, DeAndre Hopkins, and Jadaveon Clowney, the lack of ‘hits’ after those picks makes it difficult for a team to establish good depth, and remain competitive.

2) New York Jets

I wanted to give Mac the benefit of the doubt, so I took at look at his Jets tenure to see if there were any other takeaways. Unfortunately, the numbers were eerily similar and give fairly good insight as to why there have been struggles putting a successful team together.

A) Using the same study, I wanted to see what percentage of players from each draft class were still on the Jets compared to league averages.

  • NFL Average (Year 4) - 41%
  • 2015 Mac Average (Year 4) - 16.6%
  • NFL Average (Year 3) - 55%
  • 2016 Mac Average (Year 3) - 66.6%
  • NFL Average (Year 2) - 71.3%
  • 2017 Mac Average (Year 2) - 55.5%

As you can see the numbers aren’t very promising, with years 2015 and 2017 being well below average. In fact, only Leonard Williams still remains on the Jets from that 2015 draft class. And although the 2016 numbers are slightly above average, each of the players remaining (Lee, Jenkins, Shell, and Peake) have had huge question marks regarding their future on the team.

B) Using the same sample from 2010, I wanted to see how his selections for the Jets compared to the averages for the rest of the league. Given that his Jets tenure has been less than 5 years, I assumed that his number of starters would be higher due to less time elapsed. Instead, they look incredibly similar to the numbers posted while with the Texans.

  • NFL: Overall - 15%, 1st - 67.5%, 2nd - 33.8%, 3rd - 36.3%, 4th - 6.3%, 5th - 4.4%, 6th - 1.9%
  • Maccagnan: Overall - 27%, 1st - 100%, 2nd - 33%, 3rd - 33%, 4th - 0%, 5th - 25%, 6th - 0%

As is above, so is below.

As mentioned previously, Mac once again finds success in the 1st round and falls below average throughout the rest of the board with the exception of round 5 (1/4). (That starter being Brandon Shell).

After a review, I once again was not impressed. For a draft guru, having these below-average numbers just isn’t going to cut it, and provides a clear insight into the Jets lack of depth, and struggles since Maccagnan’s hire. (Don’t get me started on the Free Agent pickups). The inability to find contributing players in the later rounds of the draft can kill teams. Not having that depth is crucial as the grind of a season wears down on players. Having a large quantity of picks fizzling out within 3 years is unusual given the numbers, and an indictment of exactly how bad his drafting has been. Is this the standard for a quality scout? A quality GM? Much blame has gone around but I believe Maccagnan owns the lion’s share, and I don’t think he was qualified for the job to begin with. Did Mike Maccagnan really deserve the Jets GM job? Or was he given a great opportunity by a close friend based on relationship and not track record. Let’s hope these words from Belichick don’t have as lasting an effect as the ones written on that napkin many years ago.

Maybe Mike Maccagnan wasn’t the right man for the job.


Do the Jets need to fire Mike Maccagnan?

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