Finally, Mike Maccagnan can stop fooling us all
I make no apologies about being a fan of the Washington Redskins. In most cases, it’s not something I — or anyone else — should brag about. I’m well aware of the fact that, over the past five years, the Redskins have a total of one playoff appearance.
But as someone who’s been rooting for said team for more than three decades, and endured the Dan Snyder regime for the last two-plus decades, i’ve learned one thing: as long as Snyder owns this football team, Redskins fans are the living embodiment of the phrase “this is why we can’t have nice things.” But, when we actually do something right, and don’t get any recognition for it, while it should be par for the course, it’s one of the few things that i’ll take a stand about.
(What the hell does any of this have to do with the Mike Maccagnan and the New York Jets? Hold on, i’m getting there).
In 2015, the Redskins hired Scot McCloughan to be their General Manager and de facto head of player personnel acquisition.
Say what you will about McCloughan’s net results via the draft and free agency, but if nothing else, McCloughan instilled within the organization concepts that were otherwise unheard of in the Snyder era, such as long-term thinking, fiscal pragmatism (with player contracts), building a roster of “culture-builder” players, and a general focus of “why don’t we worry about winning on the field instead of gloating about ‘winning off the field’.”
(And that’s not even mentioning his biggest accomplishment: siding with his head coach, Jay Gruden, to convince Snyder that the organization would be better off with Kirk Cousins starting at quarterback, and officially pulling the plug on the RG3 era.)
After McCloughan’s first season in Washington, the Redskins went from a 4–12 football team in 2014 to winning the NFC East and earning just their third playoff berth in the past decade in 2015.
And despite all of that, the powers that be in the NFL overlooked McCloughan when handing out the NFL’s Executive of the Year award.
Instead, they gave it to Mike Maccagnan, the (now-deposed) General Manager of the New York Jets.
Prior to the 2015 season, McCloughan used the ample cap space available to the Redskins to sign a handful of culture-first “football players” (as he loved to refer to them) like Stephen Paea, Chris Culliver (both of whom were big admittedly swings-and-misses), Ricky-Jean Francois, and later Terrance Knighton. In the spirit of transparency: McCloughan and company admittedly pounced on DeSean Jackson shortly after the Philadelphia Eagles shockingly released him, but managed to ink Jackson to a team-friendly three-year deal worth $24 million.
By comparison, after previous General Manager John Idzik spent a year taking an absolute PR beating in Gotham for trying to clean up the disasters created by his predecessor (Mike Tannenbaum), Maccagnan came to New York and ran the Jets like a spoiled trust-fund brat who got his hands on daddy’s credit card.
Take a look at the results of his shopping binge:
- Darrelle Revis: 5 years, $70 million
- Antonio Cromartie: 4 years, $32 million
- Buster Skrine: 4 years, $25 million
- Marcus Gilchrist: 4 years, $22 million
- James Carpenter: 4 years, $19.1 million
- Brandon Marshall: 3 years, $26 million (after acquiring him via trade)
And that’s not even mentioning the $3.25 million they paid for the last year of Ryan Fitzpatrick’s existing contract, after trading for him that offseason.
So yeah, one would hope that handing out $194.1 million in contracts would net you some type of success, like the Jets going from a 4–12 team themselves to a 10-win team (one more win than the Redskins had) by the end of Maccagnan’s first season.
But why doesn’t anyone acknowledge that Maccgnan basically spent $200 million to buy a fluke of a winning season (in which they still failed to make the playoffs)?
And has anyone actually bothered to take a look at the aftermath of all those deals?
- Idzik left the Jets with the third-most salary cap room in the NFL, entering the 2015 season. One year later, with Maccagnan controlling the finances, the Jets had the 6th-lowest salary cap room in the league. One year after that, the Jets were dead last in salary cap space.
- You’re never gonna believe this, but almost exactly two years after going on that spending binge, the Jets parted ways with FIVE of those seven big-ticket acquisitions made. And they had to eat nearly $13M in dead salaries after cutting three of them (Revis, Cromartie, and Fitzpatrick).
- Almost 77% of that total contract sum was spent on defensive backs, and one year after his shopping spree, the Jets finished the season ranked 31st in passing defense DVOA.
- Maccagnan’s near-$200 million scoring binge netted a grand total of two Pro Bowl appearances: Revis and Marshall in 2015. By the start of the 2017 season, they were both off the team.
- In fact, none of those six players are currently on the Jets roster.
But hey, maybe Maccagnan saw the fact that after his 10-win-season mirage, the Jets won 5 or less games in each of the three following seasons, meaning he should probably change the way he originally approached things.
Maybe he would realize that he bought himself a mulligan this year, after convincing Jets’ ownership to make (former) head coach Todd Bowles the fall guy for the Jets’ lack of success.
Maybe he’d realize that the smart NFL exec’s are handing out shorter, team-friendly contracts to players while placing a greater premium on younger — read: cheaper — players acquired through the draft.
Maybe he would realize that, with his team having the 6th-most salary cap space in the NFL and one of the 10 youngest rosters in the league, the last thing he should do is try to short-change the team-building process and “buy” another winning season.
This offseason, Maccagnan out-foxed us all by channeling his inner Jon Gruden: looking at everything the smart kids are doing, calling all the smart people a bunch of squares, and then doing exactly the opposite of what all the smart people are doing.
In other words: Maccagan went shopping again:
- LB C.J. Mosley: 5 years, $85 million
- RB Le’Veon Bell: 4 years, $52 million
- WR Jamison Crowder: 3 years, $28.5 million
- DE Henry Anderson: 3 years, $25.2 million
- WR Josh Bellamy: 2 years, $7 million
- CB Brian Poole: 1 year, $3.5 million
- K Chandler Catanzaro: 1 year, $2.3 million
The contracts of the first four players alone total $190.7 million… nearly the exact same amount he spent in free agency four years ago.
(And, that’s not counting the 5-year, $72.5M contract they handed to cornerback Trumaine Johnson last offseason, which — surprise, surprise — they’re already regretting.)
Now, just for the sake of argument, let’s acknowledge that at least Mosley was an 2nd-Team All-Pro in 2018, and Bell — who had almost 1,900 yards from scrimmage in 2017 — was likely a mandated acquisition from ownership.
Ok, great. So after spending more than a quarter-of-a-billion dollars in free agency over the past two offseasons, the Jets still have…
- major questions at both offensive tackle positions plus a band-aid solution at best at center (thus ensuring they’ll give Bell exactly zero holes to run through)
- nobody they can construe as a #1 wide receiver (they effectively have a menagerie of glorified #3 or #4 receivers)
- a bottom-10-in-the-NFL duo of starting cornerbacks
- exactly zero guys who have ever recorded 8 or more sacks at any point in their career.
In a TOTALLY unrelated note: taking the under on the Jets projected win total of 7-to-7.5 games is some of the easiest money you’ll ever make.
Everyone is rightly defecating on head coach Adam Gase’s pulling a coup d’etat, pushing Maccagnan out the door and usurping power all for himself (because that structure worked so well in Miami, so why not replicate it?).
But in reality, the only bad part of this move is that it took place about two years too late. Everyone saw Maccagnan’s (wrongful) coronation as a top executive after the 2015 season, and spent the ensuing few seasons ignoring the mess he’s made, in a textbook “the Emperor’s New Clothes” type of way.
And they let him stay long enough to once again repeat the exact same mistake(s) he made, which got the Jets to their present situation in the first place.
As the saying goes: fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on [us].