The New York Jets parted ways with many of their most notable veterans this past offseason, putting the franchise in rebuilding mode once again.
That goodwill that was garnered during the 2015 season would fade away by the dismal showing during the 2016 campaign. A season that marked the end of the Gang Green careers of notable players, such as, Darrelle Revis, Nick Mangold, David Harris, Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall.
Revis, Mangold and Harris remain unsigned and Marshall has joined forces with cross-town rivals, the New York Giants. Decker, the latest high-profile cut has reached a deal with the Tennessee Titans. While production for all four has declined this past season, their departures mark a first in the Woody Johnson-era, a complete overhaul of the roster.
A rebuild is an interesting prospect for a franchise who has always looked to make the splashy move to return to relevance. Whether it was to sign a Mike Vick or reacquire Darrelle Revis, to trading for Brett Favre, Johnson has always looked for the quick fix and back-page grabber to push his organization into the spotlight.
While success in short spurts have been the calling card for this franchise, long-term success has been elusive. In fact, the Jets don’t fade away, they fall in a blaze of glory to irrelevance.
Injuries to quarterbacks, Vinny Testaverde and Chad Pennington have crushed promising season starts. The most recent success was back to back AFC Championship Games where the touted defense looked like a deer in headlights in the first half.
If you were to plot out the history of the Jets on a graph to weigh success versus failure, the pattern would make the most logical person go insane. The franchise seems to find a spark every few years, but it is extinguished almost as soon as it begins.
Maccagnan was able to convince Woody Johnson in avoiding the “splashy” move this offseason. Instead the Jets made a series of economical moves to help bolster the entirety of the roster. Josh McCown, Morris Claiborne, Kelvin Beachum, and the reacquisition of Demario Davis are examples of low-risk signings.
Davis returns to the New York Jets after a disappointing spell with the Cleveland Browns. The underwhelming, Calvin Prior will head to Cleveland in the exchange, making way for the safety tandem of Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye to take center stage.
Out with the old and in with the new. The Jets will have one of the youngest rosters in the NFL in 2017. Expect to see rookies and second-year players throughout the starting lineup, with the exception of two key positions.
OTAs have ignited an abundance of conversation surrounding the Jets quarterback conversation. McCown appears to have the lead heading into the dog days of summer. While Christian Hackenberg does remain in the mix to solidify the starting role as play caller.
The fanbase is split on who should be at the helm for at least the start of the season. Reports that Hackenberg has been wildly inconsistent during his reps, have many questioning if he is ready for the spotlight.
Even with the inconsistencies, expect to see Hackenberg start games in 2017. The Jets need to know if he can play and handle the limelight of being quarterback in the “Big Apple.”
If Hackenberg fails to meet the expectations of Maccagnan, who selected him in the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft. Maccagnan showed confidence in Hack, despite a college career in which he took a beating week in and week out in the tough Big Ten.
Whether it be McCown or Hackenberg, they will have the benefit of veteran running backs, Matt Forte and Bilal Powell as a safety net. Both backs are rolling into the twilight of their careers but still provide enough savvy to protect the limitations of McCown and inexperience of Hackenberg.
Powell has been the consummate pro for the Jets since being drafted in 2011, providing a change of pace as a secondary back. His ability to catch out of the backfield can negate the youth of the “new” offensive line.
It’s a bit of a surprise that Matt Forte survived the veteran cuts that claimed Decker and Marshall. A thirty-plus old running back seems to be the last thing the Jets would need during this youth movement. However, Forte not only provides talent, he is a great locker room presence that will help the maturity of Gang Green.
Rookie running back, Elijah McGuire will benefit the most being the understudy to the veteran tandem. He’ll have the chance to breakout as a star on an offense with more players with “potential” than recognizable stars.
Wide Receivers, Quincy Enunwa, Robby Anderson, ArDarius Stewart and Chad Hansen will have that same opportunity. If a pair of the four can breakout into what was expected of Marshall and Decker, the Jets future will look bright.
Jordan Leggett looked like a steal on draft day. The National Championship tight end was selected by the Jets in the fifth round, a great value for Maccagnan and his scouts.
During his collegiate finale, Leggett left a lasting memory with a dominant performance. But even a superior stat line couldn’t answer questions about his motor.
If Leggett wants to be a successful NFL player, he should follow the incumbent tight end, Austin Seferian-Jenkins path this offseason. Seferian-Jenkins made a revelation after the 2016 season, that his lifestyle was affecting his play on the field. He’s looked great in OTAs.
There is no question that this team has talent, and in most cases, raw talent. It will be up to Todd Bowles to harness and nurture that talent into a collective.
Two major factors have derailed former Jets coaches from creating that unity in the past. Owner Woody Johnson has been quick to fire the regimes of the past. In his 17-year ownership tenure, Johnson hasn’t provided much leash for growing pains.
A curious plan for an owner that refuses to hire “experienced” personnel in the General Manager and Head Coach positions. Unity comes in time and not allowing for the growing pains that come along with a rebuild will put this franchise back to square one.
The second factor, is the itchy-finger of the owner to make a splashy move. Trading Revis, signing Brett Favre, and hiring a numbers guy like John Idzik has created setbacks in the growth of the franchise. Johnson’s desire to see his organization’s name on the back page of the New York City papers, has had a long-term negative effect.
Perhaps, Maccagnan and Bowles are not the correct pairing to lead the Jets into this new era of football. It will again fall on the owner to either tug the leash or let the “process” come to fruition. In the end, with everything the Jets do, it will be much watch TV.