With discontent growing among Jets fans after yet another loss, the worst of Todd Bowles’ 28 games, there is mounting pressure for Woody Johnson to fire the second-year coach and even general manager Mike Maccagnan and begin all over again.
Charley Casserly and Ron Wolf, the NFL executives-turned-consultants who recommended Bowles and Maccagnan, don’t share that sentiment. Neither do I. At least not yet.
“I watched the team (in a 41-10 loss to the Colts Monday night), and I understand where they are,” Casserly told Newsday Tuesday. “But I think this idea of firing people is insanity. Mike was executive of the year last year. Todd had the second biggest jump in wins last year. They took over a sinking ship that was bordering on disaster and got 10 wins out of them, and now it’s hitting rock bottom.”
Casserly won a Super Bowl as the Redskins’ general manager after the 1991 season and was the Texans’ GM from 2002-06. Johnson hired him two years ago as a consultant to search for a coach and GM. Working alongside Wolf, the Hall of Fame former GM and architect of the Packers’ Super Bowl teams of the mid-1990s, Bowles and Maccagnan were the clear choices.
But after a promising season in which the Jets overachieved, they’re 3-9. With huge roster issues heading into next season, Johnson may be tempted to fire one or both. Casserly and Wolf would advise a more cautious approach, even with the heat turned up on the coach and GM.
“Bowles is very competent at what he does, and I think he’s an outstanding football coach,” Wolf said Tuesday. “That’s why it’s so thought-provoking to see what’s happened. I know Todd was really good when we talked to him. They don’t look good now, though. Monday night, they looked awful.”
But do you blow up the operation this quickly, especially after the two-year run of GM John Idzik came to an ignominious end after the 2014 season? Does one season undo all the good that came from 2015, when Maccagnan used a hunk of salary-cap space to sign Darrelle Revis, Buster Skrine, Marcus Gilchrist and Antonio Cromartie and got Brandon Marshall for a song from the Bears? Does Bowles get zero benefit of the doubt for what’s gone wrong this season?
Many fans would offer a definitive “yes” to both questions, and there are increasing calls from the media to dump Bowles and/or Maccagnan. But dynamiting the operation is shortsighted. They need at least another season to see if they can begin to turn things around.
They need to rebuild the offensive line. Revis needs to take a pay cut and move to safety or else be released. Sheldon Richardson, whose underachieving performance this year, especially with his contract expiring, is mind-boggling, should be traded. Nick Mangold’s injuries finally are taking a toll and may render him too expensive to keep. Mo Wilkerson must play up to his $86-million contract. Fitzpatrick is gone. Some may say it’s time for Marshall to go, but I think he can be a capable receiver and leader moving forward.
Most important, the Jets are about to find out if Bryce Petty can be an answer at quarterback. Christian Hackenberg likely won’t play this season, but his offseason development will be crucial. They also could keep Geno Smith on a modest deal, sign Mike Glennon or Colin Kaepernick, or even kick the tires on Tony Romo, although I think he may be one hit away from never playing again.
Casserly thinks the mistakes of drafts preceding the Bowles-Maccagnan era must be taken into account when assessing the team.
“Since the Jets drafted (D’Brickashaw) Ferguson and Mangold in 2006, they went from 2007 to 2014 drafting two starters (on offense) that are still with them, a guard (Brian Winters) and a third wide receiver (Quincy Enunwa),” he said. “Mangold’s on his last legs, Ferguson retired, so they make a move for Ryan Clady, which we all knew was going to be a risk. But there was no backup on the roster that was worth anything.
“Losing Eric Decker was big, because he was a red-zone guy, and losing Geno was big, because he would have been better than Fitzpatrick. It’s a mess personnel-wise. There was no nucleus left behind. The nucleus was Ferguson and Mangold. There’s a lot of work to be done there, and it’s not going to happen overnight.”
Casserly and Wolf agree the biggest miscalculation was bringing Fitzpatrick back.
“What they were able to do by squeezing out 10 wins with Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback was a miracle,” Casserly said of their 2015 season. “Teams were going to catch up to him, because you’re limited in what you can do with the guy. Fitzpatrick can’t stretch the field, he forces throws and gets rattled under pressure. That’s the book on the guy. The one thing about Petty — and we don’t know how good he is — is that he can stretch the field.”
Wolf thinks it was time to move on from Fitzpatrick before the season.
“That’s the big fault of Todd,” Wolf said. “You know what you have (in Fitzpatrick). You’ve got to bite the bullet there. I know it’s easy for me to sit here and say that, but you still know what you have, and you lucked out last year.”
But Wolf preaches patience, and points to the Raiders under GM Reggie McKenzie as an example of giving a regime time to develop.
“You go in and get rid of the big-money guys that are causing the problems,” Wolf said of McKenzie, who took over in 2012 and was given carte blanche. “You take your lumps, and all of a sudden, you get the players you want and things happen positively. The first two years, they were ready to run him out of town. He wasn’t dealing with a full deck. All of a sudden, now he’s shown everybody what it’s like when he can play with 53 cards.”
A month to go, and plenty of uncertainty with the Jets. And Johnson must put plenty of serious thought into whether he gives Bowles and Maccagnan more time to find the answers. Or whether he starts all over.
It says here it’s still too soon.