Jet fans were thrilled to hear that the Jets hired former assistant coach of the year Todd Bowles at the end of the 2014 season. Bowles and new GM Mike Maccagnan did not fail to disappoint fans in the 2015 season. Not only did the dynamic duo show their success on the field with the Jets’ first ten-win season since 2010, but also displayed their highly valued diplomatic skills off the field. During the offseason, the Jets traded for Texan’s QB Ryan Fitzpatrick who, by the numbers, had one of the best years in franchise history. Maccagnan and Bowles also traded for Bear’s WR Brandon Marshall, who historically had off the field problems, but placed with the top receivers in franchise history after his first year in New York. Generally, trading for two players of this caliber would cost an arm and a leg but the diplomatic duo negotiated down to 5th and 6th round picks.
There is no question that Bowles bumped up the level of play following Rex Ryan’s catastrophic collapse. The 2015 season was the first time in several years that fans did not have to hold their breath when their QB dropped back to pass. This new passing attack, along with Chris Ivory’s pounding, pushed the Jets’ squad to a top ten-ranked overall offense. Bowles and Maccagnan worked on the defensive side as well, taking what many Jet fans considered a high school secondary, and turned it into an elite and experienced secondary for 2015. The upgraded secondary coupled with the drafting of two skilled additions to the front seven pushed the defense into the top five.
There is no question that this year was a good year for coaches and management, but no one should be calling Bowles or Maccagnan miracle workers yet. Before anyone labels Bowles and Maccagnan lifesavers, it is important to put the success of the season into context. The first condition is the money and cap room the Jets had. As soon as Maccagnan unlocked his office, he immediately had 50 million dollars to work with, which is an incredible amount for any team. The Jets will have less to work with this offseason, and they will have big bills to pay for players like Wilkerson, Revis, and Ferguson.
The next piece to contextualize, or simply remind people of, is the fact that Ryan Fitzpatrick’s chance to become dominant was a total fluke. Many have forgotten that Geno Smith was supposed to be the starter before he broke his jaw. No one knows how Smith would have done in Chan Gailey’s system but there was a large chance the Jets would not have been nearly as successful.
The last of the conditions was the Jets’ ease of schedule. In week 16, the Patriots were the only team that the Jets had played that was over .500. According to Fantasy Index Magazines, the Jets had the 13th easiest schedule of anyone in the league 2003 (by winning pct.). The Jets will have a harder schedule next year so the fact that they won many games with close margins could pose an issue.
Last year was the first act of Bowles and Maccagnan. This year will be harder and on top of that, the Jets still need an edge rusher, a solution for an aging defense, a long-term solution at quarterback, a better special teams unit, and a running back, all with the cap room he had last year. The second act starts March 7th, the beginning of the league year, and let us hope the two are the real deal.
Sources: Overthecap.com, CBS Sports, Fantasy Index Magazine, ESPN
Photo Credits: NY Daily News, NY Jets, NY Jets Photo Edits