As a boy, Mike Maccagnan couldn't get enough of it.
The NFL Draft has always fascinated him. And even now, at age 48, he can't put his finger on why.
It likely was a combination of several things: the exorbitant amount of information that needed quantifying, the challenge of wading through it all, the inherent risk of making the wrong decision.
The Jets' first-year general manager likens his job to a portfolio manager or a stock market investor. Maccagnan, whose father was an educator, is enthralled by details. And his need to understand and analyze things at every level borders on excessive.
At his core, he's a talent evaluator who believes his strength lies in having a passion and an eye for scouting players. And in many ways, he's the antithesis of his predecessor.
Had John Idzik not failed in his two seasons as Jets GM, Maccagnan wouldn't have had the chance to rebuild the franchise from the ground up. The big-ticket signings of cornerbacks Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie and Buster Skrine, plus the trade for receiver Brandon Marshall, were immediate fixes in a long-term transformation process. And Maccagnan's work has only begun.
"He could see the big picture of how to put a team together, which is an important characteristic for a general manager," former GM-turned-NFL Network analyst Charley Casserly said of Maccagnan in an interview with Newsday on Friday.
Maccagnan scouted for the Redskins from 1994-99 during Casserly's tenure as GM and "was one of the first people" Casserly said he hired when he became the Houston Texans' GM in 2000.
" 'Thorough' would be an understatement when he's doing something," added Casserly, who, along with former Packers GM Ron Wolf, served as consultants for Jets owner Woody Johnson during his most recent GM search. "He's a very good evaluator and he has a good understanding of people. He's humble. He's a non-ego person. All he cares about is doing a good job. And he's very loyal."
While Idzik succeeded in creating a salary-cap surplus for the Jets, his fate was sealed by his refusal to address glaring roster holes and the team's 4-12 finish in 2014. Idzik declined to be interviewed by Newsday this past week, but the former Jets GM is expected to make his return to MetLife Stadium on Sunday when the Jets (4-3) host the Jacksonville Jaguars (2-5). On Feb. 25, two months after he was fired by the Jets, Idzik was hired as special assistant to Jaguars GM Dave Caldwell, who, coincidentally, was Johnson's top GM choice in 2013 before he pulled out.
The Jets are very much a work in progress, but they're far more talented and competitive than they ever were under Idzik. Their secondary now is considered a strength. Geno Smith, a second-round pick of Idzik's, is an afterthought behind Ryan Fitzpatrick, the quarterback Maccagnan traded for in March.
The dynamic that plagued Ryan, a head coach fighting for his job, and Idzik, a GM looking to a future that didn't include Ryan, won't be an issue for Maccagnan and Todd Bowles. And although it's too soon to predict if they'll succeed or fail with the Jets, one thing is clear: They're committed to doing it together.With Maccagnan, there is no ego. Down to earth and surprisingly chatty, he puts as much focus in building his draft and free-agent boards as he does empowering those around him to share their opinions. He isn't shy about having the final say, but he cringes at the thought of being mistaken for a dictator. His vision of success is rooted in the concept of inclusion and the belief that the loudest or the quietest voice in the room might have the right answer. Putting his proverbial stamp on the Jets pales in comparison with building a talented team that consistently wins.
And unlike some front-office execs, Maccagnan isn't afraid to admit the areas he wasn't as strong in when he first took the job -- i.e., the salary cap.
The 2006 draft will always be special to him, and not just because the Texans selected future four-time Pro Bowl defensive end Mario Williams No. 1 overall. There was a sense of inclusion between first-year coach Gary Kubiak, GM Casserly and Maccagnan, who then was Houston's coordinator of college scouting. "We had a philosophy of blending everyone together," Casserly said.
And with Maccagnan now in charge, the same is true for the Jets.
"There's no question [I hired him in Houston] because he was an excellent evaluator and I knew he could do a terrific job with the college and pro scouting because he could do both," said Casserly, who talked to Maccagnan as recently as last Sunday. "He was one of the first people I wanted to get there."