Happy Super Bowl Sunday. A look at what’s happening around the New York Jets, plus a quick take on Super Bowl LII:
1. Jets want Cousins: Here’s a little secret: When owner Woody Johnson interviewed head-coaching candidates in 2015, he promised he’d deliver a franchise quarterback. At the time, all they had was Geno Smith, which didn’t make them terribly appealing.
Three years later, the Geno Coaster would be an upgrade over the current depth chart. Coach Todd Bowles went from Smith to Ryan Fitzpatrick to Josh McCown, with some Bryce Petty sprinkled in. And don’t get me started about the Christian Hackenberg fiasco.
General manager Mike Maccagnan has one last chance to make it right in what looms as a make-or-break quarterback decision. This is a uniquely loaded quarterback market — pro and college — and Maccagnan should be run out of town if he can’t find a permanent solution this offseason.
Enough Band-Aids. No more journeymen and one-year wonders. It’s time to break the perpetual cycle of mediocrity.
How Maccagnan attacks this is a compelling football debate: Does he splurge for prospective free agent Kirk Cousins or does he draft a quarterback? To draft a quarterback he covets, he probably will have to trade up, which means giving up premium draft picks.
Tough call: Big money for Cousins or picks for a hot-shot rookie? It’s a decision that will create ripples for years to come.
The Jets would be thrilled to land Cousins, who would provide an upgrade and stability at the most important position — never a bad thing for a team that plays musical quarterbacks. But the richest contract in NFL history (north of $27 million per) would hamper the Jets’ roster-building efforts down the road.
The Jets should target Kirk Cousins but not allow themselves to be coerced into a costly deal. Patrick Smith/Getty Images
Quality quarterbacks rarely hit the market in their prime, but the Jets need a lot more than a quarterback to be a championship-caliber team. This particular quarterback isn’t a savior. He’s a complementary piece — a key piece, but not the final one. Despite impressive stats (more on that in a bit), he’s 26-30-1 as a starter, with no playoff victories.
A good GM buys low and watches his assets mature, but it hasn’t worked out that way for Maccagnan and his predecessors. The Jets are in this predicament because they whiffed on Hackenberg, Smith and Mark Sanchez, and it’ll be like paying punitive damages if they give Cousins $30 million a year.
Right now, I’d say the wise move would be to pass on Cousins if the price gets out of hand.
For Maccagnan, the decision could be based on what he thinks of the college quarterbacks. Former Arizona Cardinals coach and noted quarterback whisperer Bruce Arians said last week this “may be the best [class] in the last 15 or 20 years.” Drafting a quarterback comes with risk (a 50 percent bust rate), but the potential upside could be greater than inserting a 30-year-old. It also makes more fiscal sense than overpaying a veteran.
If Maccagnan sees the next Carson Wentz or Jared Goff in Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Josh Allen or Baker Mayfield, he should do what it takes to get him.
Bottom line: Whether it’s Cousins or one of the top draft prospects, Maccagnan can’t afford to blow a golden opportunity to solidify the position for years to come. He needs to give his coach a chance to succeed.
2. Straight cash, homey: No matter where Cousins signs (my prediction is the Denver Broncos), the money will be a major storyline. Let’s look at it from the Jets’ perspective, comparing how much it would cost to sign Cousins compared to drafting a quarterback with the sixth pick. We’ll use the contracts of Matthew Stafford (the current highest-paid player) and Jamal Adams (last year’s sixth pick) as guidelines.
The cap figures for Stafford in the first three years of his contract are a combined $72.5 million. For Adams, it’s $15.3 million. The difference is $57.2 million.
You can fix a lot of positions with that kind of loot.
2018 NFL Free Agency
Kirk Cousins. Jimmy Garoppolo. Le’Veon Bell. This class could get wild. Here’s everything to know heading into free agency, which begins March 12.
• Ranking top 50 potential free agents »
• Looming FA decisions for all 32 teams »
• Destination Cousins: Where QB could play »
3. Kirk vs. Matty Ice: If you’re into number crunching, you’ll love this comparison between Cousins and Matt Ryan, the 2016 NFL MVP. Their stats over the past three years are almost identical.
Cousins: 67.0 completion rate, 81 touchdown passes, 36 interceptions and 13,176 yards.
Ryan: 66.9 completion rate, 79 touchdown passes, 35 interceptions and 13,630 yards.
4. Tuna helper needs help: Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells considers Bowles “one of my guys.” Parcells has a lot of his “guys” coaching in the NFL, many of them successful. He believes Bowles, despite a 10-22 record over the past two seasons, still has the ability to turn around the Jets. The issue, Parcells said, is upgrading the roster.
“Listen, it’s the same problem: You just have to get enough guys to get rolling,” Parcells said by phone. “He had a lot of older players there. He’s trying to inject some youth in there. I think a few of the guys he got last year look like they’re going to be pretty good. They still need some more. I think this is a big draft for them, I really do.”
Every Jets fan would agree.
5. Conflicted emotions: Former Jets center Nick Mangold probably would rather shave his beard than root for the New England Patriots, but he’d love to see former longtime teammate David Harris win a championship. Mangold and Harris spent 10 seasons together, never getting beyond the AFC Championship Game.
“I want to see him get a ring,” Mangold told the Michael Kay Show on ESPN 98.7 FM. “Unfortunately, it’s with New England. Not that I’m rooting for New England, but I’m rooting for David Harris.”
Chances are Harris — who doesn’t have a role on defense — will be a healthy scratch against the Philadelphia Eagles. But, hey, a ring is a ring.
2018 NFL DRAFT
When: April 26-28
Where: Arlington, Texas
NFL draft home page » | Draft order »
•Insider Mel Kiper’s Mock Draft 1.0 »
•Insider Todd McShay’s Mock Draft 1.0 »
• Which NFL teams could draft a QB? »
•Insider Kiper’s Big Board »
•Insider McShay’s Top 32 »
• 2018 draft QB class primer »
• Underclassmen who have declared »
6. Waiting on the OC: Some people on Twitter have asked about Jeremy Bates and why the Jets haven’t announced his promotion to offensive coordinator. Something fishy going on? Not really. The coaches were off last week, and Bates hasn’t gotten around to signing his contract, I’m told.
7. Long road to Canton: Unfortunately, Kevin Mawae wasn’t elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday, coming up short in his second straight year as a finalist. It won’t get any easier next year. Eligible for the first time in 2019 are safety Ed Reed, tight end Tony Gonzalez and cornerback Champ Bailey, all of whom should be first-ballot Hall of Famers.
8. Future Jets on the big stage? The Super Bowl will feature several players who will be free agents next month, some of whom could be on the Jets’ radar. The most prominent pending free agents are:
Patriots — Cornerback Malcolm Butler, left tackle Nate Solder, wide receiver Danny Amendola, running back Dion Lewis and special-teamer Matthew Slater.
Eagles — Cornerback Patrick Robinson, tight end Trey Burton, defensive end Brandon Graham and running back LeGarrette Blount.
Of this group, I’d say the most realistic options for the Jets are the two corners, Butler and Robinson, along with Burton.
9. Did you know? Three rather amazing stats on the Patriots: Tom Brady has completed passes to 33 different players in seven Super Bowls. … They’ve yet to score a first-quarter point in a Brady/Bill Belichick Super Bowl. … The Patriots are 16-0 in the postseason under Belichick when they win the turnover battle.
10: Prediction: It’s hard to pick against Brady, but the Eagles have the ability to control the line of scrimmage on offense and defense. In the past two postseasons, Brady has completed only 26 percent of his passes when facing interior pressure. Fletcher Cox could be the guy who ruins Brady’s bid for six rings. Eagles 24, Patriots 20.