This is what a plan look likes.
A month ago, New York Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan received criticism and scrutiny for moving up early in the NFL Draft, exchanging their original sixth pick and three second-round selections over the next two years to get that coveted No. 3 spot. The pick now looks like a steal as the Jets selected a franchise quarterback in the making in Sam Darnold.
It is a steal of a move, something that hasn’t often been said around these parts. The Jets went into this whole offseason with a plan and now, they emerge with a future.
The Jets didn’t overspend in free agency, staying disciplined as they added value to their team and improved. They didn’t get superstars, they didn’t spend simply for the sake of spending. Instead, they built with the future in mind, a far cry from 2015 when Maccagnan’s first offseason saw him spending like it was going out of style. Lessons were learned and the team — as well as Maccagnan — were better for it.
But with $100 million heading into next offseason and a franchise quarterback in Darnold, the Jets are not just on solid footing. They are close to taking off.
Darnold has the obvious luxury of sitting behind veterans Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater for at least part of the year, all part of the master plan laid out by Maccagnan. He needs to work on mechanics and there are the troublesome turnovers this past year at USC, but Darnold will be able to sit and grow as a quarterback, maturing into this role and this city. Being a starting quarterback in New York is different than anywhere else, a place that has gobbled up top draft picks and veterans before fraught with perils and bright lights.
But Maccagnan planned for this, putting in place a bridge between the present and when Darnold inevitably takes over this team. He also saved cap space for next year to bring in playmakers and offensive line help as Darnold grows into this role as a starter.
The general manager made a series of ingenious moves this offseason, many of which flew under the proverbial radar. They were moves that culminated in tonight.
The Jets are a better team because Maccagnan had the vision, the audacity to look ahead and see the depth of the quarterback position in this draft class. He knew and understood that sitting at third gave the Jets a shot – in all likelihood – of either Baker Mayfield or Darnold.
With Mayfield’s shock selection No. 1 to the Cleveland Browns, the Jets landed a quarterback who many considered the best of the class. He has the prototypical size and build as well as the kind of pedigree that, more often than not, points to success.
It was a series of gutsy moves by Maccagnan to get to this point.
There is no guarantee that Darnold will finally spell an end to this team’s wandering in the wilderness for four decades, a franchise forever looking for a quarterback. He might not pan out, might simply be decidedly average.
But with the cap space to build a team next year and arguably the draft’s top quarterback, the Jets at least have a direction. And that direction could well finally be Super Bowl bound.
As long as they don’t bring in Tim Tebow as a personal punt protector, they should be just fine.