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NY Jets: It’s 100% Maccagnan’s Team Now

New York Jets Introduce General Manager Mike Maccagnan and Head Coach Todd Bowles Photo by Rich Schultz /Getty Images

In 2015 the New York Jets decided to clean house and hit the reset button, firing the head coach, Rex Ryan, and the general manager, John Idzik. In came a new head coach, Todd Bowles, and a new general manager, Mike Maccagnan. The Jets are now entering the fourth year of the new regime.

For a time after any regime change the new team is under the burden of working to some extent with the old regime’s players. Consequently the early results achieved cannot be solely attributed to the new regime. With the shaping of the 2018 New York Jets roster, that time has passed.

The 2018 New York Jets have only five players on the roster that were initially brought in by other general managers. Bilal Powell was originally drafted in 2011 by then general manager Mike Tannenbaum. Brian Winters, Dakota Dozier and Quincy Enunwa were drafted by former Jets general manager John Idzik, and Idzik also signed Brent Qvale as an undrafted free agent. Those five players are the only players on the 2018 Jets roster that were not originally signed by Mike Maccagnan. However, all five of those players were subsequently signed to a new contract by Maccagnan. The current Jets roster is therefore, for the first time in the current regime’s tenure, 100% a Mike Maccagnan signed roster. This is Maccagnan’s team, lock, stock and barrel.

It’s an old cliche that you can’t judge a draft class until three years in. Mike Maccagnan has chosen four draft classes thus far, but only one, the class of 2015, has had three full years of experience. Judging that class is not pretty. Out of the six selections made by Maccagnan in that 2015 Jets draft class, only one player, Leonard Williams, remains employed by the NFL. That’s right, the other five players didn’t just move on to other teams; they are all currently out of the league. In short, it was a disastrous class.

The class of 2016 is arguably a bit better. It lacks the star power of a Leonard Williams (the only player Mike Maccagnan has drafted to ever make a Pro Bowl), but it also has fewer busts. Linebacker Darron Lee headed that class, and while he has been a starter, few would argue he has been anything other than a disappointment thus far. Entering the critical third year of development, it’s time for Lee to make a big leap in his level of play or he will likely never become an above average starter in the NFL. Linebacker Jordan Jenkins has been solid if unspectacular. He may turn out to be something along the lines of a Bryan Thomas, a solid long time starter who was always good at setting the edge but never more than adequate as a pass rusher. Right tackle Brandon Shell is another starter from the 2016 class, albeit a below average starter. Lachlan Edwards is an above average punter, and Juston Burris and Charone Peake are back of the roster fringe players. The only member of the class of 2016 draft class to wash out so far is second round pick Christian Hackenberg, currently on his fourth NFL team on the Cincinnati Bengals practice squad. Thus far the 2016 class has generated a few starters, but not one has sniffed a Pro Bowl or even (other than a punter) been an above average starter. There’s still time for this class to develop; we’ll know much more by the end of the 2018 campaign, when the 2016 class will have three years under their belt.

The class of 2017 are still barely more than rookies. Early returns on the top two picks, Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye, are promising. If they continue to develop the Jets may have found a nice pair of starting safeties for the foreseeable future. The rest of the class of 2017 is somewhat less promising. Wide receiver ArDarius Stewart is currently suspended by the NFL and has been a big disappointment to date, though there is still time for him to develop into something useful. Fellow wide receiver Chad Hansen was cut this week, as were linebacker Dylan Donahue and cornerback Jeremy Clark. Clark landed on the practice squad. Tight end Jordan Leggett, running back Elijah McGuire and cornerback Derrick Jones round out the class of 2017 as a trio of back of the roster players. McGuire and Jones have shown a glimmer of something more that gives hope of their future development, while Leggett has barely been healthy enough to evaluate. We’ll know a lot more about the class of 2017’s potential after this 2018 season is in the books.

The 2018 draft class will forever be defined by the success or failure of the third overall draft pick, quarterback Sam Darnold. If he succeeds the 2018 class will be a success, and if he fails the 2018 class will be a failure, almost regardless of how the other picks work out. Thus far, with the caveat that we haven’t seen any members of the class of 2018 in real NFL action yet, Darnold looks very promising, as does defensive lineman Nathan Shepherd. Running back/returner Trenton Cannon has been something of a disappointment, but the huge step up from small school star to NFL player probably accounts for some of his struggles. We haven’t really seen enough of tight end Christopher Herndon, cornerback Parry Nickerson, and defensive lineman Folorunso Fatukasi to form much of an opinion beyond their pre-draft tape.

This is where four years of Mike Maccagnan’s drafts have taken the Jets to date. Throw in a few nice undrafted free agents like wide receiver Robby Anderson and safety Doug Middleton and we have a picture emerging of the current regime’s ability to scout and procure college players. In the end this will be the determining factor in the fate of Mike Maccagnan - how he does in the draft and with undrafted free agents. Expensive free agent acquisitions and trades are also a piece of the puzzle, but without achieving above average results in the annual college player talent acquisition fest, few if any teams manage to forge a path of long term success.

Now take a look at the 2018 New York Jets roster. It is a roster with only one Pro Bowl player (Leonard Williams) and zero All Pro players on it. Most neutral observers believe this is still a bottom ten roster in the NFL. Try to think back to 2015, when the Jets were in the market for a new general manager. When they were hiring, if you were told that four rosters later this is where the Jets would be, would you have signed up for that? Perhaps the answer for many is a resounding yes, because they believe so strongly in rookie quarterback Sam Darnold and have been so starved at the crucial quarterback position for so long that nothing else matters. Fair enough; we’ll have to check in a few years hence to see how that works out.

Even though it is indisputable that quarterback is by far the most valuable position on the field, even a great quarterback has trouble winning Super Bowls without some pretty good surrounding talent. Tom Brady has won five Super Bowls. Every one of those five were in a year the New England Patriots had a top 8 defense in points allowed. In the six years Brady has not had a top 8 defense the Patriots have only made it to the Super Bowl once, and have never won it all. Drew Brees, another future Hall of Fame quarterback, as great as he is, has only gone to the playoffs twice in the last six years; not coincidentally, those were the only two years he had a top 10 defense. The point is, even the greatest of quarterbacks need quite a bit of help with the rest of the roster to achieve the ultimate goal.

So take a long look at the results of four years of roster building and ask yourselves, is this the results we were looking for when the Jets hired Mike Maccagnan and company four years ago? Forget about the won/loss record for a moment, and just focus on the roster. Is this the record of a man who we should be confident can surround a franchise quarterback, if that’s what Darnold becomes, with sufficient talent to win a Super Bowl? The jury’s still out to a certain extent as we await the development of a few more draft classes. But I know which way I’m leaning. This is now 100% Mike Maccagnan’s team. How do you like the looks of things?