The New York Jets turned heads around the NFL on Wednesday when they fired general manager Mike Maccagnan.
The move was baffling because of the timing. Maccagnan was allowed to run the team’s draft (where the Jets had the No. 3 overall pick) and handle the biggest part of free agency (including signing Le’Veon Bell), but couldn’t keep his job into the regular season.
The big picture: Looking at the results alone, defending the move is a little easier. In four years with Maccagnan as GM, the Jets went 24-40 (going 14-34 over the final three seasons). Naturally, they didn’t make the playoffs once. When we look back at the moves made under Maccagnan’s watch, it’s not hard to see why it all went so wrong.
Maccagnan’s first year: While things ended up going poorly for the Jets under Maccagnan’s watch, they didn’t start so bad.
- In Week 16, the Jets defeated the New England Patriots to move to 10-5.
- The win put New York in a spot where it needed only a Week 17 win to make the playoffs. It also greatly contributed to the Pats not getting home field advantage in that year’s playoffs.
- With Maccagnan and first-year coach Todd Bowles running the show, it felt like a new day had finally arrived for the Jets.
- Unfortunately, those good vibes disappeared the next week. The Jets were upset by the Buffalo Bills (coached by the man Bowles replaced, Rex Ryan) and missed the playoffs despite going 10-6.
- While Maccagnan and Bowles were both granted extensions following the 2017 season, Week 17 in 2015 really marked the beginning of the end for both. From that point on, the losses far outweighed the wins.
So, we know that the end result was poor. But the question is, what caused the poor results?
For that, we need to look at Maccagnan’s drafts.
The draft is where teams are built: From that perspective, Maccagnan fell well short.
- Maccagnan’s inagural draft in 2015 landed Leonard Williams, Devin Smith, Lorenzo Mauldin, Bryce Petty, Jarvis Harrison, and Deon Simon. Williams is the only player from that draft still with the Jets. In fact, Williams, Smith, and Simon are the only players presently signed to NFL contracts.
- As uninspiring as that draft class was, the 2016 class was even more cringe-worthy. Darron Lee was New York’s first pick that year. Lee is still with the Jets. But he’s consistently ranked as one of the NFL’s worst outside linebackers throughout his career. And as bad as the first round pick was, the second rounder was worse.
- The second-round pick that year was used on quarterback Christian Hackenberg. Hackenberg struggled so much in practices and preseason games that no matter how meaningless the regular season games were, he just couldn’t get in.
- Following the 2017 season, Hackenberg was traded to the Oakland Raiders for a conditional seventh had brief stints with the Cincinnati Bengals and Philadelphia Eagles (not seeing any action) before eventually ending up in the AAF — with some rough results. It’s hard to imagine a worse second round pick.
- With Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye, the 2017 Draft was better. The 2018 Draft yielded Sam Darnold, who looks like a franchise quarterback. Tight end Chris Herndon also had a nice rookie season.
- Of course, we don’t know how the 2019 Draft will turn out. But if it goes well, five years of drafts will have yielded maybe 7-8 key players. That’s not good, especially for a team who’s generally drafted high.
Now, the draft isn’t the only way to acquire players.
Free agency and trades: The results here aren’t pretty. Far from it.
- Prior to the 2015 season, the Jets brought Darrelle Revis back and traded for Brandon Marshall and Ryan Fitzpatrick. For one year, those moves worked okay. But that magic didn’t extend to 2016.
- After the 2015 season, the Jets and Muhammad Wilkerson agreed to a contract extension. Almost immediately, his game went south.
- Prior to the 2017 season, New York acquired Jermaine Kearse in a trade with the Seattle Seahawks. He had a solid first year for the Jets. But in 2018, he caught only 37 passes for 371 yards.
- Following the 2018 season, the Jets signed Bell. We can’t say how that will turn out. But the early returns haven’t been strong.
On top of that, new head coach Adam Gase was reportedly not on board whatsoever with the team spending big on running back Le’Veon Bell.
Final word: Maccagnan’s run in New York can get some vindication if the 2018 and 2019 moves pan out well. But thus far, Maccagnan’s draft picks and signings have landed the Jets very little in terms of foundational players. That explains the record.
The timing of Maccagnan’s firing will never make sense. But from a pure results standpoint, we can’t question it.