FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Despite a rough start and a gloomy forecast for the season, New York Jets ownership believes general manager Mike Maccagnan is the right guy to rebuild their talent-starved roster.
But will Johnson & Johnson (Woody and Christopher) feel the same way about their third-year general manager if the team starts 0-10 or something similarly awful?
The Oakland Raiders found themselves in that situation in 2014. General manager Reggie McKenzie, in his third season, had gutted the roster, ridding it of old and overpaid players. It was a massive overhaul and everybody knew it would take time, but people started to wonder about his plan after 34 losses in 42 games, including an 0-10 start in 2014. He wound up building a championship-caliber roster, but there was a rock-bottom period where ownership could have hit the reset button.
The Jets, who travel to Oakland this weekend, can use the Raiders as the blueprint for their rebuilding project. Actually, we should call it a black-and-blueprint because there will be bruising along the way. That's inevitable. The question is, will the Jets' bosses remain patient, committed to the current regime, or will they pull the rip cord if it gets really bad?
Historically, the Jets have been undermined by a lack of continuity (GMs, coaches, coordinators, quarterbacks, etc.), so you'd like to believe the Johnson brothers will err on the side of stability if there's enough evidence to justify it. They should know quick fixes are rare in the NFL. The Raiders didn't reach the playoffs until 2016, the fifth year of the McKenzie regime. By then, quarterback Derek Carr was in his third year. He survived the 0-10 debacle, refusing to be ruined by the adversity.
"They were terrible," NFL on CBS analyst Rich Gannon said Wednesday of his former team. "The offensive line was bad. They had no running game. The receivers were slow. They had no tight end. This kid, he just stood there and slung it around. He showed poise and toughness and accuracy even though he was getting hit in the face every time he dropped back to throw. But you could see the kid had something special."
Carr, arguably the top young quarterback in the sport, became the centerpiece of the Raiders' turnaround. After playing quarterback roulette for two years -- Matt Schaub? Really? -- McKenzie picked Carr in the second round of the 2014 draft and refused to abandon his conviction even after going 0-10.
News flash: The Jets still don't have their Carr, and probably won't get him until the draft next spring, if then. They keep swinging and missing. They've drafted eight quarterbacks since 2008, tied with the Denver Broncos for the most.
"It's not just drafting the wrong guy, it's a question of development," Gannon said. "That's part of the problem. They've had so much turnover with the front office and with the coaches and coordinators and systems. It's hard to develop a player that way."
McKenzie inherited an 8-8 team in 2012, but the team lacked young talent and was $30 million over the cap. He dumped several big contracts, incurring a league-high $74 million in "dead" charges for 2012 and 2013. They had to pay for the personnel mistakes of Al Davis, who died in 2011, and it restricted their ability to field a competitive team.
One thing about Maccagnan's rebuild: His offseason purge resulted in only $18 million in dead money. By next year, he will have an $80 million war chest in cap funds.
While in cap hell, McKenzie stockpiled draft picks and later hit three home runs in 2014, drafting Carr, pass-rushing star Khalil Mack and stud guard Gabe Jackson. He changed head coaches and dived into free agency, spending big bucks to rebuild the offensive line. Their entire line, one of the NFL's best, came via free agency.
"Both Reggie and I have a great appreciation and affection for offensive-line and defensive-line play," said coach Jack Del Rio, who was hired in 2014. "I think the Jets have big, physical guys on their offensive and defensive lines. Their defensive line is loaded."
Once they get their quarterback (Sam Darnold, anyone?), the Jets should focus on protecting him. They also need to upgrade the skill-position talent. Let's face it, they have many needs, too many address in one or two drafts.
"If I'm the quarterback, who am I going to throw to?" asked Gannon, who worked the Jets-Buffalo Bills opener. "That's the problem."
Well, yes, that's a problem. Maccagnan obliterated the receiving corps, opting for a mix of young kids and veterans that just arrived in town. It will be a painful year for the Jets, and it could get ugly on Sunday in Oakland. Ironically, the team inflicting the damage could be their inspiration.