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Mike Maccagnan doesn’t have a very strong case to keep his job as Jets general manager

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New York Giants v New York Jets Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

I think a the debate about Mike Maccagnan’s job performance gets too focused on narrow and anecdotal items. “He drafted Jamal Adams.” “Yeah, but he also drafted Christian Hackenberg.”

This general manager is no longer in his first or second year. There is now a substantial body of work to judge. It isn’t about individual hits or misses. Even the best general manager has some terrible whiffs. Even the worst general manager will run into a good move every now and then.

At this point, there is a big picture. Unfortunately not much of that big picture paints a positive view of Maccagnan’s job performance.

Draft

Draft successes and failures can be difficult to quantify, but one fact has weighed heavily on my mind over the last few weeks.

On a side note, Jason Fitzgerald is one of the best follows out there. He is an expert on financial and salary cap matters within the NFL.

In this instance, the relevant information is not about the salary cap. It is about the quality of the players the Jets have drafted.

The NFL Draft is the lifeblood of any successful organization in the league. Most good players get re-signed before they hit free agency. If you want to find quality, you’d better be good at drafting.

Forget about finding good players. Since Mike Maccagnan took over, the Jets have been the worst team in the league at finding players good enough to be on an NFL roster.

This fact alone eviscerates the argument that Todd Bowles is the only problem with this franchise. If the Maccagnan picks were failing because the coaching with the Jets was so poor, surely they would go somewhere else and succeed with better coaching. That isn’t happening, though. The rest of the league is evaluating the talent and deeming Maccagnan’s picks unworthy of a 53 man roster spot.

This goes beyond, “Every general manager whiffs on picks.” This compares the drafting of every team in the league over a four year sequence, and Maccagnan finishes at the very bottom.

Free Agency

I think even Mike Maccagnan’s biggest supporter would have a tough time defending his record in free agency, but let’s take a look at his big ticket signings. Last winter Rich Cimini listed Maccagnan’s signings over his first three years. We can add in his 2018 class.

Let’s take a look at his big ticket signings. These are the players who have received contracts with at least $10 million guaranteed. (We’ll count one year deals as fully guaranteed since veterans making that kind of money are unlikely to be cut.)

  • Darrelle Revis
  • Buster Skrine
  • David Harris
  • Muhammad Wilkerson
  • Ryan Fitzpatrick
  • Brian Winters
  • Kelvin Beachum
  • Trumaine Johnson
  • Josh McCown
  • Avery Williamson

That is one ugly list. The three biggest paydays went to Revis, Wilkerson, and Johnson. The first two deals were megabusts, and Johnson’s looks to be the same through year one. The two quarterbacks, McCown and Fitzpatrick signed one year deals but provided virtually no on field value during those years. Skrine and Winters have not lived up to their contracts.

To the extent you have success stories, they are Beachum, Williamson, and Harris.

Maccagnan has entered two of four offseasons among the league’s leaders in cap space, and his best big money deals have been a stopgap tackle and a couple of good off ball linebackers.

When people say, “Don’t worry. This offseason Maccagnan will have $100 million in cap space to fill,” is that supposed to be comforting?

Salary Cap

While we are on the topic of the salary cap, let’s talk about the job the Jets have done managing it.

The cap can be a complex topic, and I think there are times where analysis misses the mark. There tends to be a perception that a team with a lot of cap space in the future has done a good job managing its cap. More goes into it, though.

If a Super Bowl team has enough cap space to re-sign its key players and make an impact addition or two in the offseason, that is an excellent job of managing the cap.

The Jets’ situation isn’t like that. Do you want to know the real reason the Jets have so much cap space heading into 2019?

They have 30 players under contract, the lowest number in the NFL. It’s easy to create cap space if you don’t have any players signed. Signing players is what eats up cap space.

This means that the Jets aren’t only playing offense this offseason. At a minimum they will need to either re-sign or replace their top three wide receivers, one of their top two backs, a starting guard, two of their top three cornerbacks, and their starting nose tackle.

Some of those guys aren’t that good, but they have starting roles because they are better than the alternative. So the Jets will need to spend a good chunk of their available cap space to simply prevent a four win roster from getting worse.

When he was hired four years ago, Maccagnan inherited a shell of a roster and a bunch of cap space. With four years to build a core, the Jets now have...a shell of a roster and a bunch of cap space. That isn’t progress.

Rebuilding

One of the blanket excuses that gets thrown out to defend the general manager of a bad team is that rebuilding is a process.

Sometimes that is true. In other instances, it is a weak excuse.

If a team was rebuilding, you would expect it to be full of young players. You would want to think of the future. Even if it meant more losses today, getting young guys experience will help their development. Load your roster with young, raw talent, and a few players will probably stick.

How young are the rebuilding Jets?

Each year as training camp breaks, my former SB Nation colleague Jimmy Kempski compiles the average age of the 53 man roster for all 32 teams in the NFL.

This year the Jets had the 19th youngest roster the league. So not only has the general manager built a poor roster. The Jets are slightly older than the NFL team.

It’s one thing for the Browns to tout a rebuild, improving their win total from a year ago by at least six games with the second youngest roster in the league. It’s tougher to call the Jets a rebuild when they will struggle to match last year’s win total with the 19th youngest roster.

For more context:

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Over the last four years, the Jets have been a poor drafting team whose free agent signings have mostly failed. They are a bad team that isn’t particularly young and barely have any pieces in place for next season.

In this context, it’s amazing we are even debating whether the general manager should return. Forget about many in the media treating it as a given and the right move.