Five games remain in this miserable Jets season that’s headed for an eighth consecutive year without a playoff berth and a likely third in a row with a losing record.
And once this season mercifully ends, Jets ownership, beginning with CEO Christopher Johnson, will have some major decisions to make.
Todd Bowles will be fired. That’s the simple part.
What the Jets do with general manager Mike Maccagnan is more complicated, and that doesn’t mean whether to retain him or fire him along with Bowles.
By all indications, Maccagnan will stay, and that’s the correct call.
While it’s hardly been perfect on the part of Maccagnan — with second-round draft-pick busts such as quarterback Christian Hackenberg and receiver Devin Smith as examples — he’s been a better general manager than Bowles has been a head coach.
If the Jets, 3-8 after Sunday’s loss to the Patriots, are going to make strides and advance, Johnson must show himself as all in on Maccagnan and let his general manager hire the new head coach. If the Jets believe in Maccagnan as a good football man — which he is — they need to empower him as such and let him find a head coach who aligns with his visions.
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Maccagnan and Bowles were an arranged marriage when they were hired together in 2015. How many arranged marriages do you know that have worked? Not many.
Remember the arranged marriage of incumbent head coach Rex Ryan and general manager John Idzik, who was hired by team owner Woody Johnson in 2013 on the recommendation of executive head hunter Jed Hughes from the Korn/Ferry consulting firm?
How did that work?
Enough with these outside-resource searches.
It’s more traditional for team owners to allow their general managers — the football people — to hire the head coach. The Johnsons twice have gone outside the box in an effort to fix their broken franchise. It’s time for them to turn to a more traditional approach and let Maccagnan find their next coach.
That would mean a complete change in power structure as it’s stood for the last four seasons — with both Maccagnan and Bowles answering to ownership on equal footing. It should be owner, GM and coach in that descending order of hierarchy.
Make no mistake: Maccagnan’s name is attached to the Jets’ results just as Bowles’ is. Jets fans are ticked off at Maccagnan just as they are with Bowles — who is 13-31 since the 2015 season-finale debacle against the Bills and 5-17 in the past 22 games, a mark certain to get worse over the final five weeks — and that’s fair. Maccagnan is not beyond culpability.
He is, after all, the one who fell in love with Hackenberg before the 2016 draft. He signed off on free-agent cornerback Trumaine Johnson last offseason, a signing that has had horrible impact when you measure money spent to production.
But he also committed to Sam Darnold as the best quarterback coming out of last spring’s draft — the results of which we won’t know for awhile, but Darnold has looked the part of a franchise quarterback.
The Jets, desperate for some continuity, want no part of blowing the entire franchise up four years after they did it the last time. So Bowles goes, Maccagnan stays and hires Bowles’ replacement.
The Johnsons need to use that resource, trust that Maccagnan will draft better than he has and allocate the $90 million-plus the team has to spend under the salary cap this offseason to find a pass rusher, improve the offensive line and put some skill position talent around Darnold.
That will mean extending Maccagnan’s contract beyond its current ending place of 2020.
It’ll mean a change in team management philosophy by ownership.
It’ll mean starting over without completely starting over.
But when you’ve gone eight years without a playoff berth and are en route to a third consecutive losing season, changes must be made — as long as they’re smart changes.