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By Firing Mike Maccagnan, the Jets Made the Right Move at the Wrong Time

https://www.theringer.com/nfl/2019/5/15/18627166/mike-maccagnan-fired-new-york-jets-christian-hackenberg

 

New York’s decision to fire its general manager just weeks after the draft raises many questions. Namely: Why was the man who once picked Christian Hackenberg allowed to keep running the show until now?

By Kevin Clark  May 15, 2019, 9:37pm EDT
 

mike_m_jets_kevin_getty_ringer.0.jpgGetty Images/Ringer illustration

In the summer of 2016, I started having office debates about one question: At what age would Jets quarterback Christian Hackenberg, born in 1995, become more valuable to an NFL franchise than Tom Brady, born in 1977? Would, say, a 30-year-old Hackenberg be more valuable in 2025 than a 47-year-old Brady? Would a 35-year-old Hackenberg be more valuable to an NFL roster than Brady in his early 50s?

It didn’t take long to figure out the answer: The age limit did not exist. It quickly became apparent that Hackenberg would never surpass the Patriots legend and his former AFC East rival. But more surprising than how quickly Hackenberg flamed out is how long the man who picked him remained employed by the Jets. Long enough for Hackenberg to be traded, cut, and then cut twice more. Long enough for a new professional football league to form, for Hackenberg to join and fall from starter to third-stringer within it, and for that league to fold in strange and humiliating fashion. All of this happened while Mike Maccagnan was general manager of an NFL team.

The Jets fired Maccagnan on Wednesday, transferring his power to newly hired head coach and now interim GM Adam Gase. The move itself is not surprising, though the timing certainly is. It leads to more questions than answers—approximately the 10,000th consecutive Jets decision to do so. Still, it was a necessary step for the franchise’s ultimate path forward.

One bad pick does not make a bad general manager, but if one pick could make a bad general manager, then it would be the Jets’ selection of Hackenberg. There is a laundry list of factors that led to Wednesday’s move—we’ll get to many of them below—but the Hackenberg pick, no. 51 overall in 2016, encapsulates them all. If New York fans were asked to explain the 2015 to 2018 Jets in one minute, Hackenberg would be the first word out of their mouths. You could go through every decision Maccagnan made line by line, or you could simply say he’s the guy who drafted Hackenberg. Both explanations lead to the same conclusion.

There was no facet of that pick that didn’t apply more broadly to this era of the Jets franchise: Hackenberg was a bad player on a roster that included lots of them, a wasted mid-round pick during the most important era for mid-round picks, and a selection that caused a problem that the Jets committed a stunning number of resources to solve. These were all franchise trademarks. Most importantly, the Hackenberg pick suggested that the Jets had no plan throughout Maccagnan’s tenure, a theme that extended all the way to his ouster and will probably continue after his departure. Maccagnan was canned nearly three weeks after he was given control of the organization’s 2019 draft, less than two months after he spent a virtual treasure chest in free agency, and a little more than a month after the Jets CEO said he was “terrific” at his job. The Maccagnan Jets were the Hackenberg pick; the Hackenberg pick was the Maccagnan Jets.

As a reminder, that pick came one year after Maccagnan made another terrible quarterback pick in the middle rounds of the draft. In 2015, his front office spent a fourth-rounder on Bryce Petty, who, like Hackenberg, is now out of the league entirely. Maccagnan took three QBs in his four years on the job, the last of whom is Sam Darnold, acquired via the 2018 no. 3 pick the Jets got as part of a deal with the Colts. Darnold doesn’t look like he’ll bust—he looks pretty good—but it’s hard to give Maccagnan much credit. If you lock your keys in your car twice before successfully pulling away from a gas station, not doing so a third time isn’t all that impressive.

Maccagnan was incredible at locking his keys in his car. A recent Over The Cap study showed that the GM’s picks have failed out of the league at an astounding rate. Thirty-three percent of Maccagnan’s second-round picks between 2015 and 2018 were on NFL rosters last year; the league average for second-rounders was 92 percent. Fifty percent of his third-rounders were on a roster; the league average was 84. Here that is in visual form:

Maccagnan’s greatest failure was his complete inability to build through the middle of the draft, where the players taken remain ludicrously cost-controlled for four years. Drafting well in the middle of the draft is the bedrock of efficient NFL franchises; just ask Bill Belichick. And while the Jets’ $100 million in cap space entering free agency this spring may have seemed like a luxury—as it was for the 2019 Colts—that wasn’t the case. It was a reality caused by a roster that had huge gaps and not enough good players worth paying to fill them. The Jets gave out more in guaranteed money than any other team this offseason. Then they fired the guy who gave it all out.

The #Jets doled out $121M of new guarantees this free agency season under the direction of GM Mike Maccagnan, by far the most in the #NFL.

2. #Lions, $91.5M
3. #Raiders, $85.5M
4. #Bills, $78M
5. #Broncos, $68M

 
 
 

The Jets now have a pressing problem on their hands: Darnold, who showed flashes of legitimate talent in an uneven first season, is about to enter the second year of his rookie contract. A team has four years in which a drafted passer stays absurdly cheap before his inevitable payday, and maximizing that window by surrounding him with talent is crucial. Perhaps March’s Le’Veon Bell signing, which Gase was reportedly against, will help, as Bell is a pass-catching back who can bring much-needed dynamism to the offense. But there’s still a ways to go. The clock is ticking and the Jets will have just an awkward, half-offseason with their new personnel head before the next general manager can make his mark in the spring of 2020.

The post-draft firing of a GM is not unheard of in the modern NFL. The Bills fired Doug Whaley in April of 2017, and the Chiefs axed John Dorsey two months later. The Panthers parted ways with Dave Gettleman in July of that year. Assuming Gase does not retain his Belichickian personnel power, New York’s top job may go to candidates like Eagles executive Joe Douglas or NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah, two hugely impressive people with good track records. There is a path for the Jets to reach contention, but the way this all unfolded risks squandering the most important thing in sports—a good, cheap quarterback on a rookie deal.

Bleacher Report’s Mike Tanier joked Wednesday that this move happened simultaneously two years too late and two years too soon. That’s accurate. Even when the Jets make the right decision, it’s still a little wrong.

In the days leading up to 2019 first round, I wrote a story titled “The Race to Make the NFL Draft an Exact Science.” While reporting, I interviewed two machine-learning experts who think the problem with NFL evaluators isn’t what scouts see, but rather that the biases inherent to scouting reports keep them from emphasizing what truly matters. For instance, if size is a knock on a wide receiver prospect, that’s not a big deal; if a quarterback is only good at completing short passes, that’s a major red flag. To that end, take a look at the “Weaknesses” section of Hackenberg’s 2016 NFL.com draft scouting report, one that called for him to go as a second- or third-round pick: “Debilitating accuracy issues with atrocious 51.5 percent adjusted completion total (throws beyond line of scrimmage). Turns receivers into goalies. Even simple throws can be coin-flippers in accuracy department.”

Uhhh, what? How was this a projected second- or third-round pick? How was Hackenberg even draftable at all? Later on, the profile quotes an NFC executive as saying the tape from the QB’s final two seasons in college “is terrible,” though he “has traits and leadership.” Hackenberg would go on to never even attempt a regular-season NFL pass.

It’s hard to gauge who the worst draft pick in NFL history is. In 1982 the Buccaneers selected a player who wasn’t even their intended pick. Some players—like 1986 first overall pick Bo Jackson—never signed with the team that drafted them and the team later forfeited their rights. Pat White, the West Virginia quarterback whom the Dolphins grabbed in the 2009 second round, also didn’t complete a regular-season pass, but his selection is explained by the fact that he was supposed to be part of Miami’s grand wildcat experiment. Hackenberg is in a different category altogether. He isn’t the worst pick ever. He’s the funniest. And his trajectory was capped off by his profanity-laden AAF stint:

 
Embedded video
 

Christian Hackenberg keeps forgetting that he's mic'd up 😂

 
 

“I don’t think you would look at it as a success,” Maccagnan said of the infamous Hackenberg pick last year. Well, yeah.

Hackenberg has been gone for a year, and the guy who took him is gone as of this week. The goal now is to build a franchise that won’t make the same mistakes—with the Jets, that’s never easy
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Why let him spend $100m and draft then fire him? Backwards organization 

AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHSHSHSHSHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHSHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHSHAHSHA @Jet Nut

Big props to Manish, Connor Hughes, Brian Costello, and whoever the guy is writing for that jersey version of the Pennysaver who dutifully reported that Macc wasn’t getting fired. Top job, chaps. 

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I'm not spewing vitriol at Gase..  I hope he has the goods. But the unfortunate truth is perception is reality and the perception is that Gase forced out Macc in the ultimate power move.  If he doesn't win and win quickly he'll get skewered.  You can argue with me till the cows come home but those are just the facts.

 

 

But you’re operating like Macc is a victim in all of this. He’s not. He was incompetent and deserved to get fired well before this. Now Gase has to clean up the mess.

 

Meanwhile, what you’re talking about is media perception. Yes, the media might hammer Gase if he doesn’t have immediate success. Doesn’t mean the Johnson’s will listen or give two sh*ts. No one should care what the media thinks of Gase. The best writers are pissed today because they look really, really inept at their jobs after all of this.

 

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It just occurred to me that CJ is only in year 2 of being handed the keys to this job.

Makes sense that he just now is discovering what Macc really was or wasn't doing behind the scenes.

He has actually been more involved with this team from an operational standing than Woody ever was. Kudos to him for making a tough, controversial decision.

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9 hours ago, Sperm Edwards said:

You sure? I don't know how this works. I know after their season has ended then teams can't deny (unless it's a lateral move and he's under contract the following year), and during the season they're employees of other teams whose plans for the upcoming season may now be ruined. But after the new league season officially starts, yet before the regular season begins, it's curious.

Why should another team lose their own guy in May just because the Jets felt like firing their GM at this time? Between final elimination and the start of the next season? Fine; promote/extend your guy or risk losing him. But once the new league year has started in March? Those teams could argue they'd have gone another way. 

For example, what if we fired Macc right before the 2018 draft, and hired the 2nd in command at a draft competitor with the same needs right ahead of or around us, so we'd know their board and know if we had to leapfrog them to get our man; or if it was a team behind us, we'd get to know what they were willing to give up in trade so we could beat that preemptively; whichever, it would give us an underhanded advantage in that regard. My guess is we'd need permission to even interview him, let alone hire him, since the new season was underway. 

Is it different now that the draft is over? I honestly don't know; my gut tells me we need permission to interview guys who are under contract with other teams, but it's for a promotion so they might not need it.

Does Gase seem rational to you? - He did similar power moves in Miami with the owners there. I get what you’re saying, but I don’t buy the fight between the Maccagnan and heimerdinger, smoke screen to me.

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The Johnson's are just two little rich brats who can't understand patience and think two years is an eternity. No wonder Gramps wouldn't let these morons run his company. Gase will be fired within 2 years, after he guts the team again.

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7 hours ago, Pac said:

There's really nothing you've said the last year that has been remotely insightful or correct.  I wear your disdain like a badge of honor.

I wish I could have been as right as you were. You were spot on about Mac’s quality and success at his job. You are a true visionary. I am sorry for your loss and know you’ll miss Mac. Your chin just won’t feel right to you anymore without his balls on it. 

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All these reporters are p*ssies for not doing analysis and speaking up sooner. Now it’s convenient to say what we’ve been saying for years as it has compounded and gotten worse. The Johnson brothers and media are all pathetic idiots.

What’s ironic is that Mac had a decent offseason this year. Not amazing which he needed to regain some trust but by far not his worst. The rift with Gase must have sealed the deal because his terrible performance didn’t was widely accepted by many which is unacceptable. 

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I've said over & over I thought Macc made some mistakes, I didn't think they would fire him after letting Bowles go & keeping him. The funny thing is this idea that Jet fans LOVED MACC, I read this board everyday, and I don't remember seeing many Macc lovers. I'm totally indifferent, our future was completely altered when Darnold fell to us. 

Any team that has a potential franchise QB will be a destination for a HC & a GM. I'm sure Douglas is the target & there is already a handshake deal. 

After 2015, Maccs biggest gaffes were drafting Hackenberg after Bill Obrien passed on him? Head shaking, and signing Trumaine Johnson to that ridiculous contract (you'd think he learned something after signing Revis). 

I thought this draft was pretty good. You know damn well this will be his best draft here ever, lol. That's the way it works here with the Jets. Douglas will go 100% offense & a CB next year & Jetnation will be happy. After drafting Darnold, I always felt 2019 would be the turnaround & 2020 the arrival. 

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12 hours ago, Sperm Edwards said:

You sure? I don't know how this works. I know after their season has ended then teams can't deny (unless it's a lateral move and he's under contract the following year), and during the season they're employees of other teams whose plans for the upcoming season may now be ruined. But after the new league season officially starts, yet before the regular season begins, it's curious.

Why should another team lose their own guy in May just because the Jets felt like firing their GM at this time? Between final elimination and the start of the next season? Fine; promote/extend your guy or risk losing him. But once the new league year has started in March? Those teams could argue they'd have gone another way. 

For example, what if we fired Macc right before the 2018 draft, and hired the 2nd in command at a draft competitor with the same needs right ahead of or around us, so we'd know their board and know if we had to leapfrog them to get our man; or if it was a team behind us, we'd get to know what they were willing to give up in trade so we could beat that preemptively; whichever, it would give us an underhanded advantage in that regard. My guess is we'd need permission to even interview him, let alone hire him, since the new season was underway. 

Is it different now that the draft is over? I honestly don't know; my gut tells me we need permission to interview guys who are under contract with other teams, but it's for a promotion so they might not need it.

little bit older but I believe these rules have not been changed

http://www.nfl.com/news/story/09000d5d815667b9/article/changing-coaching-staffs-isnt-as-easy-for-teams-as-it-once-was

 

Unless a coach already under contract is being interviewed for a head coaching job, or a personnel exec is being interviewed for a promotion to general manager that would involve final say on personnel, their existing team can block any meeting. Many out there think that only a lateral move can be blocked. That is not true on the coaching or personnel side.

Last offseason, for instance, the Redskins blocked special teams coach Danny Smith from interviewing for the same position with the Packers, and also blocked secondary coach Jerry Gray from interviewing for the defensive coordinator position with the Texans, which would have been an obvious promotion. The only reason the Browns were able to hire personnel executive George Kokinis from the Ravens is that he was promised final say on the roster in Cleveland, which he did not have in Baltimore

 

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2 minutes ago, Jetster said:

Douglas will go 100% offense & a CB next year & Jetnation will be happy.

They’ll be happy because Douglas was an ex-OL player and values OL a tooooon more than Maccagnan ever did

The Eagles and Ravens have always held it down tremendously in the trenches and have good players to show for it. Osemele is one of those players if you want an example from our own roster.

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4 hours ago, Creepy Lurker said:

All these reporters are p*ssies for not doing analysis and speaking up sooner. Now it’s convenient to say what we’ve been saying for years as it has compounded and gotten worse. The Johnson brothers and media are all pathetic idiots.

What’s ironic is that Mac had a decent offseason this year. Not amazing which he needed to regain some trust but by far not his worst. The rift with Gase must have sealed the deal because his terrible performance didn’t was widely accepted by many which is unacceptable. 

Anyone who thinks Macc should have stayed a nanosecond longer--for timing's sake--- should not be listened to.  That is a disqualifier right there.  And the Jets are not going to hire a football guy president  with a new coach in place.   They are going with the coach and surrounding him with guys who think like him.  Games are won on the field anyway.  Argue all you want about the fact that he should have gone with Todd Blowes (you have some opinions there, no?  Ha ha ha), you cannot argue that getting rid of him now is the wrong move.  Maybe late.  certainly right

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3 hours ago, BurnleyJet said:

Does Gase seem rational to you? - He did similar power moves in Miami with the owners there. I get what you’re saying, but I don’t buy the fight between the Maccagnan and heimerdinger, smoke screen to me.

Not with those eyes he doesn't. Means to an end and all that, lol.

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7 hours ago, Pac said:

I'm not spewing vitriol at Gase..  I hope he has the goods.

But the unfortunate truth is perception is reality and the perception is that Gase forced out Macc in the ultimate power move.  If he doesn't win and win quickly he'll get skewered.  You can argue with me till the cows come home but those are just the facts.

Can’t disagree with any of this. It’s pretty clear to anyone with a brain that this was a Gase power play, and it’ll only become clearer if, as rumored, we bring in one of his old frat brothers as GM. With the national pummeling the team is taking, I think this group gets two years to make the playoffs or they’re out.

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6 hours ago, Jetsfan80 said:

 

But you’re operating like Macc is a victim in all of this. He’s not. He was incompetent and deserved to get fired well before this. Now Gase has to clean up the mess.

 

Meanwhile, what you’re talking about is media perception. Yes, the media might hammer Gase if he doesn’t have immediate success. Doesn’t mean the Johnson’s will listen or give two sh*ts. No one should care what the media thinks of Gase. The best writers are pissed today because they look really, really inept at their jobs after all of this.

 

The biggest concern is bolded.

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32 minutes ago, rammagen said:

little bit older but I believe these rules have not been changed

http://www.nfl.com/news/story/09000d5d815667b9/article/changing-coaching-staffs-isnt-as-easy-for-teams-as-it-once-was

 

Unless a coach already under contract is being interviewed for a head coaching job, or a personnel exec is being interviewed for a promotion to general manager that would involve final say on personnel, their existing team can block any meeting. Many out there think that only a lateral move can be blocked. That is not true on the coaching or personnel side.

Last offseason, for instance, the Redskins blocked special teams coach Danny Smith from interviewing for the same position with the Packers, and also blocked secondary coach Jerry Gray from interviewing for the defensive coordinator position with the Texans, which would have been an obvious promotion. The only reason the Browns were able to hire personnel executive George Kokinis from the Ravens is that he was promised final say on the roster in Cleveland, which he did not have in Baltimore

 

This was my guess, but I really didn't know. 

You can't have your team and staff all set up for the upcoming season that begins in March, and then a few months later someone else poaches your guy by claiming it's for a promotion. I mean they can ask, and often teams give permission because what goes around comes around, but if they think it'll adversely impact the season - with all the jobs on the line that go with it - I'd think they would and should have the right to deny. 

Say you hire a DC or head of scouting in January. He was your top choice. You stopped looking as all your 2nd and 3rd choices on down sign with other teams for the same position. Now months later someone else comes along and has the right to poach him just because it's not a lateral move?

That would make no sense, and I'd think it would cause a lot more offseason movement than we see occurring. The only FO-type moves after the draft are with the scouting dept, but I think their contracts terms are scheduled to end after the draft anyway so teams don't lose all their scouting from the prior season if/when they change GMs and coaches. Everyone else's runs out after the season like players, coaches, and other FO positions like GM, and are untouchable until after the teams are eliminated, or after the SB should the teams get that far, with player contact prohibited until days before FA officially begins. 

But just because that would make sense to me doesn't automatically mean that's the way it is, so I wasn't sure. Take the rules with team options, where a team can amortize a SB over a year where the team can cut the player; how a cut and a failure to exercise a team option are a distinction without a difference, yet they're treated as two very different things in terms of cap (and comp pick) calculations.

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I love the firing.  Quite honestly It appears that CJ found Gase's personality more desirable than Mac's.  I also think that not getting a free agent center had an impact as well.  If I were Gase, I would make a trade for a young top of the line center and give up whoever we need to before the next GM is brought in.....   Leo plus a 3rd next year and the 6th we got for Lee, maybe.  Parcells came in here and the first thing he did is grab Kevin Mawae. Mangold came next.  Your never going to go anywhere without a bull in the middle of the O Line.

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20 hours ago, Sperm Edwards said:

The timing looks stupid. I'll still take it over keeping him. 

Absolutely - the Jets (post Parcells) history of mediocre at best team management has just been given a chance at being good. Douglas would seem to be another very positive step if he comes.

Although Gase has Rex like "ticking bomb" characteristics, a chance at something good is an easy like.   

 

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18 hours ago, BurnleyJet said:

Well I’m glad he’s gone, yes it looks like classic clown shoes, but I’m going with it.

It was strange in the draft, Gase was no where around at all. He was a little evasive when asked about himself and Macc.

I think Macc pissed Gase off, and signed the Free agents he wanted, and drafted who he wanted.

My take is Gase ran to the Johnson’s and put his cards on the table. “Him or me!”.

Wouldn't doubt it.

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45 minutes ago, dbatesman said:

Can’t disagree with any of this. It’s pretty clear to anyone with a brain that this was a Gase power play, and it’ll only become clearer if, as rumored, we bring in one of his old frat brothers as GM. With the national pummeling the team is taking, I think this group gets two years to make the playoffs or they’re out.

The wild card funzone being does Gase curse out Chris Johnson at a press conference.

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6 hours ago, Charlie Brown said:

Now it is reported that Gase was the one who essentially stopped the organization from upgrading the OL at Center!!!

You just can’t make this stuff up!!

Gase is single handedly responsible for the resurgent measles outbreak too

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1 hour ago, jack48 said:

Anyone who thinks Macc should have stayed a nanosecond longer--for timing's are--- should not be listened to.  That is a disqualifier right there.  And the Jets are not going to hire a football guy president  with a new coach in place.   They are going with the coach and surrounding him with guys who think like him.  Games are won on the field anyway.  Argue all you want about the fact that he should have gone with Todd Blowes (you have some opinions there, no?  Ha ha ha), you cannot argue that getting rid of him now is the wrong move.  Maybe late.  certainly right

I’m just putting perspective/rationale behind why they waited. Mac is so bad that ANYTIME is a good time to get rid of him. Maybe you misunderstood my stance. I hate Mac more than anyone but try to be fair or provide other points of view. He is scum though. 

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9 hours ago, Dcat said:

No, you are wrong.  This was discussed today on Movin' the Chains.  The Eages can absolutely deny access. 

Its not wrong.  As long as the offer is for a position that gives him final say with the roster.  They denied him to Houston during the playoffs.  Its a weird rule but its clear if what is posted by NBC is right.  

The Eagles are able to deny the request for now because they're still in the playoffs. That will buy them some time, but because this vacant job comes with final say on roster decisions, they won't be able to block the Texans forever.

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32 minutes ago, NJ said:

Absolutely - the Jets (post Parcells) history of mediocre at best team management has just been given a chance at being good. Douglas would seem to be another very positive step if he comes.

Although Gase has Rex like "ticking bomb" characteristics, a chance at something good is an easy like.   

 

I loved the Parcells years as much as any Jets fan, but let's not forget that his drafts (97-99) were pretty damn bad.

https://www.pro-football-reference.com/teams/nyj/draft.htm

Jams Farrior, Jason Fabini and Randy Thomas being the best picks in 3 years

 

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Just now, CTJetsFan said:

May be true, but Bowles lost his job because the team often looked unprepared on the field and he often lost control of the locker room.

Definitely not defending Bowles. It just shows that CJ had all the info he needed on Mac months/years ago, but chose to ignore it. Guess this is why he was so apologetic yesterday.

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Just now, fullblast said:

Definitely not defending Bowles. It just shows that CJ had all the info he needed on Mac months/years ago, but chose to ignore it. Guess this is why he was so apologetic yesterday.

I can also speculate that possibly hearing the same things from Gase that he heard from Bowles led him to realize that there had to be truth to it.

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3 hours ago, roscoeword said:

If we start winning with Gase, and Sam develops nice , we'll be loving gase. If we start losing, it will be brutal

Will be brutal?  Can it get worse than the last 3 years?

This move in my view can't be worse than the last 2 years so I am all in.

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8 hours ago, Pac said:

I'm not spewing vitriol at Gase..  I hope he has the goods.

But the unfortunate truth is perception is reality and the perception is that Gase forced out Macc in the ultimate power move.  If he doesn't win and win quickly he'll get skewered.  You can argue with me till the cows come home but those are just the facts.

I dont think he has to win right away. He just needs to show some kind of solid improvement this year. 8-8 will not kill him. 4-12 might

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