Sam Darnold Mike Maccagnan Adam Gase
ESNY Graphic, AP Photo

The “total mess” narrative put forth by the media regarding the New York Jets is an example of a completely misguided notion.

Robby Sabo

Adam Gase is suddenly faced with a serious situation. With the Buffalo Bills in town on the day of Sept. 8, 2019, the New York Jets sideline boss will undoubtedly possess serious internal strife.

Does he bring his team out of the locker room to play a football game or shiver in the corner like the frightened puppies they resemble?

What’s the point of football? The organization is a total mess.

It’s all the rage coming from the toughest and (usually) sharpest sports media market in the world. The Jets are a mess, a joke, a crowned laughingstock who stole Dave Gettleman’s thunder in one fell swoop (the Mike Maccagnan firing).


It’s interesting. Predictable, yet extremely intriguing; this narrative actually condemns the media itself.

Two offseasons ago, 0-16 and “worst roster in a decade” took up the back pages. Cutting ties with the likes of Darrelle Revis, David Harris, Eric Decker and others prompted the so-called “greatest sports media” in the world to spread the “tank” tagline like wildfire.

Rather than focusing on the actual talent level, and how it actually improved, calls for “laughingstock” commenced once Harris and Decker were cut at an impromptu time. The media’s short-sided nature had once again revealed itself.

It’s déjà vu all over again.

Run with it, fellas. Run hard and sprint fast. Pointing out specific examples of the overreaction isn’t necessary. Just open up the nearest newspaper or hop on Google. One pundit after another is lining up with blazing hot takes sure to reveal emotional overloads.

What’s undoubtedly missing is the timing of such anger. The Jets aren’t a “total mess” for the way they handled Maccagnan … totally. The sins of such personnel past prompted similar calls—something the media refuses to realize.

Sure, arguing the timing idea is an easy one. Allowing an NFL general manager to spend like crazy and own another draft only to oust him after rumors and denials of said rumors is unchallengeable. The scouting calendar year excuse doesn’t fly. If Maccagnan was ousted with Todd Bowles, the new front office boss would have enjoyed that more of a jump on the scouting front.

What’s misguided is the idea Maccagnan’s personnel decisions weren’t challenged as a “total mess” prior to the recent organization shakedown.

The sad fact is that stars rule the media roost. A Sam Darnold, Jamal Adams, Le’Veon Bell or C.J. Mosley go a long way in keeping the hounds at bay. Acquiring such stars fool the media into thinking progress is happening or that things are on the right track. What they fail to understand, most of the time, is that the NFL is a value league, not a superstar one.

This isn’t the NBA. Several star players aren’t the key ingredient in the Super Bowl recipe. Granted, the young quarterback is required. Without that kid, all is lost and desperate. But even with that kid, all can still be hopelessly messed up.

Where was the outrage over the non-attempts at building Darnold’s best friend and greatest reason to wake in the morning, the offensive line?

Mike Maccagnan inherited an offensive line on its last legs. D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold were nearing the end. The two men who were snagged in the 2006 NFL Draft, who literally kickstarted the greatest Jets run since 1968 (yes, more successful than the lone 1998 campaign), needed to be replaced, eventually.

New York Jets

Everybody understood the ride was over. Premium talent in the upcoming draft pools at the position remained essential in replacing the two stalwarts, yet, curiously, that detail never arrived.

Over the course of five drafts and 34 total picks, the Jets former GM selected a total of three offensive linemen. Jarvis Harrison in the fifth round (2015), Brandon Shell in the fifth round (2016) and Chuma Edoga in the third round (2019) are the three big heavies selected by Maccagnan.

This, folks, is an actual outrage.

The Jets offensive line finished dead last in adjusted line yards (3.59), via Football Outsiders. By almost every metric, this unit has performed near the bottom quarter of the league for several seasons. There’s no conceivable reason in the world to excuse the idea this unit remains broken.

Take a deep dive around the NFL. Premium picks up front are the key cog for every successful big-boy team. The New Orleans Saints employed two first rounders, two second-rounders and a third rounder in front of Drew Brees this past season. And when center Max Unger retired, they didn’t mess around. Rather than resting on those impressive recent merits, they traded up to snag Texas A&M center Erik McCoy in the second round, the kid who’d look so great in Gotham Green right now.

Darnold’s current wall consists of Shell (a fifth rounder), Brian Winters (a third rounder), Jonotthan Harrison (an undrafted free agent), Kelvin Beachum (a seventh-rounder), and the lone O-line addition this offseason, Kelechi Osemele, the second-round talent who’s often injured and will be 30 by the time camp opens.

This is where the outrage and “total mess” narrative should lie, especially with young Darnold entering year two.

In 2006, the newly-formed tandem of Eric Mangini and Mike Tannenbaum didn’t mess around. They took one of the league’s worst offensive lines and immediately flipped three starters. The following season, with a squad labeled by many as arguably the worst in the league, the team finished with 10 wins and a playoff appearance.

The appearance of stability doesn’t necessarily equal a stable reality. For years, Maccagnan has used the “plug-and-play/patchwork” method up front. And, of course, for years, the Jets can’t get out of their own way offensively.

Track the importance of drafting offensive linemen in the NFL Draft. The New England Patriots have selected nine such players over the last five drafts. The Indianapolis Colts have selected 10 offensive linemen over the last five drafts. Chris Ballard, minted as the GM in 2017, has taken five in three drafts, two more than Maccagnan in five seasons.

How was Andrew Luck feeling behind his former offensive line, pre-Chris Ballard?

This isn’t rocket science, folks. Football is a game that is always won and built from the trenches out. Maccagnan didn’t buy into the approach. In a hard salary cap league that allows teams to rebuild in two seasons, five drafts later, “best available player” continued to reign supreme.

Where’s the outrage? Where’s the “total mess” claims as it pertains to the actual building of a football franchise?

It’s something the New York sports media has missed for years and it continues to do so while distractions of an Adam Gase conquering job own the back pages.

There are only a couple of excuses for the timing of the Mike Maccagnan firing. There’s little excuse for Adam Gase’s denials through the process. But there’s no excuse to label the organization a laughingstock or a total mess for one move that suddenly controls perception when the reality of the situation equaled results just as disastrous over five seasons.

Fine, criticize the soap opera happenings in Florham Park. But do not, for one moment, believe everything was beautifully “on track.” Sam Darnold is going to have one hell of a time behind this continually flawed O-line in 2019. Once again, if everything doesn’t turn out “perfect” along this front, severe issues are on the horizon.


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