After enduring John Idzik's reign of blunder and Rex Ryan's reign of bluster, New York Jets fans now stand assured that the reins of the franchise are finally in the hands of grownups. Through his brilliant offseason moves, general manager Mike Maccagnan has brought back excitement and hope to a long suffering fan base that was left despondent after a catastrophic season. Equally important, he is apparently working harmoniously with head coach Todd Bowles, who was characterized by Brandon Marshall as "a man's man" and a "leader" (they had worked together in Miami).
In effect, the New York Jets have gone from no secondary to speak of, to one that is potentially elite. The key move was the return of Darrelle Revis. It rectified a mistake of historic proportions that will demonstrate to eternity how clueless Idzik was and why he should be a perennial candidate for worse GM ever. Maccagnan managed to bring back the best cornerback in the league, address the most glaring weakness in the team's roster, weakened the arch divisional rivals New England Patriots and ensured that Rex and the Buffalo Bills stay away. He also gave the franchise a face, (crucial in NY and everywhere really) and allowed many fans to start rummaging their closets to retrieve their Revis jerseys. Add to all of the above that the deal is brilliantly structured: the 30-year-old Revis gets $16 million guaranteed the first year, $17 million the second and only $6 million guaranteed in the third. Translation: top dollars for a top player while he should still be near his prime.
Revis will be complemented by Antonio Cromartie who reportedly accepted less money to return to the Jets (letting him go in the first place was, of course, another of countless mistakes). Cro's move demonstrates a remarkable commitment and the fact that players consider the Jets once again an exciting team worth playing for.
The Brandon Marshall trade was the opening salvo in the New Jets' approach. For the price of a fifth-round pick (where value is rarely found if we look at Jets drafting history) the team acquired an impressive, explosive, ready-to-have-an-impact player with a penchant for 1,000-yard seasons, a true number one receiver; and if he fails for some reason to deliver, the price tag is less than $8 million with no obligations for next season. Thus, Marshall has an incentive to produce on the field and avoid drama. Add the fact that NYC is the ideal place for his budding broadcasting career plus the perfect platform for his commendable public awareness campaign on mental health issues, and what we have is a potential match made in heaven.
The re-signing of linebacker David Harris was perhaps a tad expensive, but must be deemed necessary. A three-year contract (with $15 million guaranteed) allows a cerebral team leader to stay at Florham Park and away from the hands of Rex Ryan.
The arrival of quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick for a conditional pick and some $3 million in salary was another great move. Ryan is no Tom Brady, but he is a smart Harvard grad who at his best can be pretty good. Perhaps even more importantly, this year the Jets will give real competition to the turnover machine named Geno Smith as opposed to the sham competition with Michael Vick that was orchestrated last year by Idzik.
There were also other signings, such as that of versatile safety Marcus Gilchrist and cornerback Buster Skrine who has to be careful with penalties. Both have huge incentives to produce.
The conclusion is thus inescapable: The NY Jets are entering a new era: They are willing to spend big but wisely. Team weaknesses are not wished away but addressed. The general manager and the head coach are on the same page. Owner Woody Johnson is utilizing his experience after 15 years on the job; and all this is coming together at the right time. This is because the AFC East is gonna be far more competitive and fascinating to follow this year.
A word of caution is however in order: Given the audacity, ambition and logic of the recent Jets moves, the general feeling is that they might become the undisputed victors of the preseason. However, filling numerous holes is not the same as building the ultimate winning team; and winning the preseason is not the same as wining the Super Bowl. In fact, the Jets will probably not make a Super Bowl run this year. But there is now confidence that the team can act wisely on Draft Day. Marcus Mariota is a possibility, though far from a certainty. With what we got right now, a playoff run is not a pipe dream; and IF the grownups now in charge successfully address this or next year the QB position, we Jets fans can start thinking BIG again!