Mike Maccagnan will conduct his annual pre-draft press conference Tuesday. It is always one of the silliest exercises on the calendar as teams try to reveal nothing about their draft plans and the session ends up being as illuminating as a broken light bulb.
But it is really not important whether Maccagnan has the answers when he meets the press Tuesday. It only matters if he has the answers Thursday, Friday and Saturday during the NFL draft.
There was plenty of debate last fall whether the Jets general manager should be fired along with coach Todd Bowles. Instead, Jets CEO Christopher Johnson decided to keep Maccagnan while showing Bowles the door. That has left a massive microscope and a bull’s-eye on Maccagnan.
The 2019 season is going to be all about Maccagnan, not new coach Adam Gase. As the Bowles and Maccagnan Jets were struggling to 14 total wins in the past three years, there was always a question about whether the blame fell on coaching or on a lack of talent. You could get a different answer to that question depending on with whom you spoke.
Johnson ultimately decided that coaching was more to blame and fired Bowles. But Gase will now be on a honeymoon. Sure, if he has a bad challenge or decides to punt in the fourth quarter down two scores, he’ll get ripped. But Maccagnan is the one who is going to draw the fans’ ire the most this season.
If the Jets get off to a slow start, there will be questions about the roster. If Sam Darnold struggles in his second season, it will be because Maccagnan did not get him enough help. If there is traffic on Route 3 entering MetLife Stadium on a Sunday afternoon, that will be Maccagnan’s fault, too.
Maccagnan’s prize for surviving the 2018 season is a 2019 season of scrutiny.
This week’s draft represents what could be his last chance to bolster his argument to remain with the team into 2020. Think about it: How much will the roster change after this week? They will tinker with it, but the heavy lifting is over unless they make a trade.
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So, Maccagnan has very little wiggle room this week. Armed with six picks, and hoping to get more, he must land an immediate impact player in the first round and two other players ready to contribute this season.
The Jets have plenty of holes to fill. The offensive line has been largely ignored in the draft for years. Maccagnan has chosen just two offensive linemen in his four drafts. They need depth at wide receiver, on the defensive line and at cornerback. The team has not had an edge rusher since Herm Edwards was the head coach.
It appears Maccagnan landed the hardest piece of the puzzle to find last year when he drafted Darnold. That was an argument for the Jets keeping him. Then, he went out and landed the top player available in free agency by signing Le’Veon Bell to a reasonable contract. As an added bonus, he nabbed linebacker C.J. Mosley, a player the Jets feel can transform not only their defense, but also their locker room.
Now, comes the next part of the test for Maccagnan. He needs to add some players to the Jets’ core who can help the team contend for the playoffs this season.
Maccagnan won’t reveal his plans when he sits down to take questions Tuesday afternoon. We will get to see that plan unfold soon enough. If that plan is not a good one, someone else will be answering the questions for the Jets before next year’s draft.
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