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SportsColumnistsBob Glauber

Jets soaring higher than Eagles in rebuilding process

Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan speaks to reporters

Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan speaks to reporters during a news conference in Florham Park, N.J. Credit: AP

Look at Sunday's Jets-Eagles game as a litmus test on how to correctly rebuild an NFL roster.

These are two teams that underwent sweeping changes at several important positions, with a ton of money expended in each case. It's Eagles coach Chip Kelly, who won a long-running power struggle with general manager Howie Roseman and purged the team of several established stars, against first-year Jets coach Todd Bowles and rookie GM Mike Maccagnan, who made their own series of bold offseason moves.

The Jets are 2-0 and appear to be potential playoff contenders after a 4-12 season after which coach Rex Ryan and GM John Idzik were fired. The Eagles are 0-2, and Kelly is feeling the wrath of Eagles fans who have zero patience for failure.

Who's on the right path? I'll take the Jets' approach any day.

Kelly? A very smart football man, but when you give full personnel control to a coach not named Bill Belichick, you risk the calamity that the Eagles have turned into.

Kelly brought many new concepts from his up-tempo offense at Oregon, and two straight winning seasons were encouraging enough to convince owner Jeffrey Lurie to kick Roseman upstairs and give Kelly the keys to the roster-making department.

Kelly quickly went about gutting his roster, trading away Pro Bowl running back LeSean McCoy straight up for Bills linebacker Kiko Alonso, who missed the entire 2014 season with a knee injury. Alonso reinjured the knee last week and is out for Sunday's game, and perhaps much longer. Kelly replaced McCoy with Cowboys free-agent running back DeMarco Murray, who had a career year in 2014 with 1,845 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns. Murray's production through two games: 21 carries for 11 yards. That's right, Murray has mostly run in reverse so far.

Kelly dumped quarterback Nick Foles in a trade with the Rams for Sam Bradford, who played only seven games the previous two years because of two ACL injuries. So far this year for Bradford: two touchdown passes, four interceptions and a host of questions about whether he can properly execute Kelly's system.

Kelly also has shed the Eagles' top two receivers in the past two years -- DeSean Jackson, who was released in 2014, and Jeremy Maclin, who opted to sign a free- agent deal with the Chiefs after Philly declined to meet his asking price. And Kelly signed Seahawks free-agent cornerback Byron Maxwell to a six-year, $63-million contract, only to see him fizzle in the early going. Opposing quarterbacks have racked up a perfect 158.3 rating when passing to receivers covered by Maxwell.

So what's at the heart of the 0-2 start? "It's about everybody," Kelly said. "We all contributed to the 0-2 start, so it's not one individual player or group. It's about the whole group as a collective whole."

Kelly already is fielding questions about whether former Jets starter Mark Sanchez will replace Bradford.

"Nope," Kelly replied when asked if he's given any thought to making the change. And why not?

"Excuse me, because Sam Bradford is our starting quarterback," Kelly said.

It's reasonable to expect that Kelly's overhauled roster might take a while to get going.

The Jets, meanwhile, have been an equally big surprise on the positive side, and they can thank the roster decisions of Maccagnan and Bowles for the early resurgence.

Flush with salary-cap space created by Idzik's roster makeover in 2013-14, Maccagnan splurged on the back end of the defense, bringing back Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie and signing nickel corner Buster Skrine and veteran safety Marcus Gilchrist. Add first-round defensive end Leonard Williams, and Bowles has the right personnel to run his blitz-heavy scheme.

The defense has enjoyed a swift turnaround, creating a combined 10 turnovers in wins over Cleveland and Indianapolis. The Jets had only 13 takeaways in the entire 2014 season.

While the marquee offseason acquisition was wide receiver Brandon Marshall, who has been terrific after being traded from the Bears, a deal for Texans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick in exchange for a late-round pick has become critical to the team's early-season success. Fitzpatrick's veteran leadership since taking over for injured Geno Smith has been a major benefit.

Why have the Jets been successful? Credit Bowles for guiding his team with a steady hand through difficult moments in training camp and Maccagnan for hitting on most of his offseason moves. And while there are no guarantees that the Jets' start will turn into a playoff run, it does bode well for the long-term future of the franchise.

Put a quality coach with a capable GM, and the chances for success usually are good.

Put your team in the hands of a coach with no built-in system of checks and balances, and the risk-reward factor goes significantly higher. Look no further than Philly's stunning 0-2 start as the latest evidence.

New York Sports