Jets GM Maccagnan says catching Patriots 'not unattainable'
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) Mike Maccagnan has lots of work to do this offseason, a laundry list of items needed to help turn the New York Jets in the right direction.
The general manager is up to the task, but he knows winning the AFC East won't be easy. Not with Tom Brady still going strong at 39 for the New England Patriots.
''In my phone, I think I have Tom's birthday logged in there,'' Maccagnan said Thursday. ''So every time his birthday comes up, I know he's getting one year older.
''I'm just joking.''
But here's what's not funny to the Jets and everyone else in the division: New England has won eight straight AFC East titles and 14 of the last 15. Brady said last season that he wants to play 10 more years, so that's bad news for Maccagnan and the Jets.
''I have to find a new voodoo doll, I guess,'' Maccagnan said, smiling.
The Jets struggled to a 5-11 season that put both Maccagnan and coach Todd Bowles on the hot seat . They were within a win of the playoffs last year before falling short. One way to the postseason and ending a six-season drought would be knocking off Brady's bunch.
''It's not unattainable,'' Maccagnan insisted during a nearly 40-minute sit-down with reporters.
But the gap between New York and New England seems a lot larger than ever before.
''You can't sit there and look how high the climb is,'' Maccagnan said. ''You just have to keep focusing on trying to make decisions that you feel will keep moving the team to the vision of where you want it. Unfortunately, it just takes time.''
Here are some things Maccagnan addressed as he and the Jets head into the offseason:
POSTSEASON POTENTIAL: When asked how close he thinks the Jets are to becoming a perennial playoff contender, Maccagnan punted.
''I don't want to put a timetable on that,'' he said. ''I think our focus when we came into this was ideally to build through the draft, supplement through free agency. We did some good things the first season. I think this year, we're not necessarily happy with our record, obviously, but I do think we made some progress.''
QB OR NOT QB?: The GM insisted he didn't regret the one-year, $12 million deal the Jets gave to quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick just before training camp.
''I thought it was an important part of keeping the team in place,'' Maccagnan said.
But Fitzpatrick struggled and was benched twice. He's scheduled to be a free agent and is unlikely to return. Neither is Geno Smith, the former starter who was lost for the season with a knee injury. Bryce Petty also had his audition shortened by a shoulder injury.
That leaves rookie Christian Hackenberg, a second-rounder who's considered a project and didn't play in a game. It doesn't appear he's a realistic option to be next season's starter, although Maccagnan thinks he has ''the physical talent'' to eventually do so.
''This will be a big offseason for him,'' Maccagnan said. ''We'll have a better feel for it when we get to training camp next year.''
As for potentially adding a veteran through free agency or a trade, Maccagnan said: ''All options are on the table for that position.''
SO LONG, VETS?: Maccagnan declined to directly answer any questions about the futures of specific players, including Fitzpatrick, cornerback Darrelle Revis, center Nick Mangold and wide receiver Brandon Marshall.
The latter three could salary-cap casualties, particularly Revis, who is due to cost the Jets $6 million in guaranteed pay - and more than $15 million against the cap if he remains on the roster. He had a stunningly subpar season and has talked about possibly moving to safety.
''He has high expectations for himself and I don't think he necessarily played to how he felt his expectations were for this season,'' Maccagnan said.
LOCKER-ROOM IN-FIGHTING: Tension among some teammates , including Marshall and defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson, became an underlying theme. Revis called it a ''dark cloud'' and wide receiver Quincy Enunwa said it became a bit of a distraction as the losses piled.
''From a chemistry standpoint, when you have seasons that don't go well, there's a lot of frustration,'' Maccagnan said. ''But I do know that between both Brandon and Sheldon, they're both Alpha personalities, they're both very competitive and they both want to win.''
MARSHALL PLAN: A year after setting franchise marks with 109 catches and 1,502 yards receiving, Marshall had just 59 receptions for 788 yards. He's due to count $7.5 million against the cap, but has said he wants to remain with the Jets.
''Every player may decline slightly, but I do think Brandon still is a very good player,'' Maccagnan said. ''I don't think he declined significantly.''
MO' BETTER MO: After signing a five-year, $86 million deal last offseason, defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson dealt with a sore ankle stemming from his broken leg in last season's final game. He slumped from a career-high 12 sacks to just 4 +.
''You can talk about whether it was coming off the injury, but I do feel good about signing Mo,'' Maccagnan said. ''We have expectations for Mo to get back to the form he had last season.''
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