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Jets' future riding on GM Mike Maccagnan's next quarterback decision

Jets GM Mike Maccagnan's quarterback plan could start the franchise toward prosperity or cost him his job. Brad Penner/USA TODAY Sports

When it comes to quarterback moves, New York Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan is batting .250, including a home run and a strikeout.

He traded for Ryan Fitzpatrick (homer), drafted Bryce Petty in the fourth round (fly out), drafted Christian Hackenberg in the second (ground out) and re-signed Fitzpatrick for $12 million (strikeout).

Maccagnan will get one, maybe two more at-bats, starting with free agency. (The "legal tampering" period opens at noon Tuesday.) How he performs will determine whether this rebuilding project will succeed or fail. His quarterback plan will either start the franchise toward prosperity or continue a downward spiral that will cost him his job.

Not too much pressure, huh?

The Jets are in this predicament, in part, because Maccagnan reached for Hackenberg, who is no less a project than he was on draft day. If Hackenberg were a typical second-round pick, not one who spent his rookie year in bubble wrap, he'd be projected as the opening-day starter or at least in competition for the job.

He's not close to that point, so the Jets, without Fitzpatrick and Geno Smith under contract, must acquire a veteran free agent or trade for a player of that ilk.

The Jets have been linked to free agent Mike Glennon and potential free agent Tyrod Taylor, among others, but here's the cold truth: Neither is the long-term answer. Except in the rare case where a Peyton Manning becomes available, there are no saviors in free agency. Of the 49 veteran quarterbacks who changed teams over the past five years, only eight posted a winning record in the first season with his new team, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Maccagnan must acquire a starter without compromising the team's flexibility in the future. If he can rent Glennon or Taylor for a year -- say, a multi-year contract that includes a painless escape -- then, fine, go do it. But if the investment goes north of $15 million in guaranteed money, it will tell us three things:

They're basically committing to the player for more than a year.

They have little or no faith in Hackenberg's ability to develop into a starter by 2018.

They're not going to draft a quarterback in the first round.

Glennon is the flavor of the month because he threw 29 touchdowns and 15 interceptions in his first two seasons with the Buccaneers before becoming Jameis Winston's caddy. He's also the same guy who was benched in favor of journeyman Josh McCown.

Scouts say Glennon has a good arm and a good head on his shoulders, but "he's a statue in the pocket," one longtime personnel man told me. "He's not real accurate on underneath and crossing routes. As bright as he is, it doesn't translate into a quick football mind."

Taylor has a higher ceiling than Glennon, but he's only 14-14 as a starter. Scouts say he's not an instinctive passer and that his accuracy issues (career: 62 percent) might not fit into a West Coast offense, which is predicated on accuracy and timing. There's a good chance new coordinator John Morton will employ a West Coast system.

That said, Taylor doesn't commit a lot of turnovers (only 12 interceptions over the past two years) and the Jets haven't had a quarterback like that since Chad Pennington.

The Bills have until Friday to make a decision on Taylor, who has a $30 million option. If they decline the option, he probably will draw interest from the Browns and perhaps the 49ers. The Bears are said to be targeting Glennon, whose deal could be wrapped up before Thursday's official start to free agency. The Jets, too, like Glennon, but they'd be wise to stay out of a bidding war. They should take the same approach with Taylor, if he hits the market.

The Jets should sign a relatively inexpensive bridge quarterback like Brian Hoyer, then draft one of the top four quarterbacks, according to the personnel man. He was referring to Deshaun Watson, Mitch Trubisky, DeShone Kizer and Patrick Mahomes. Maccagnan would love to acquire an extra first-round pick, which would provide the flexibility to pick a quarterback.

Of course, that would be a stinging indictment of Hackenberg.

"The only thing worse than making a mistake is justifying it," the personnel man said. "It shows more strength, more big-picture thinking, if he tries to correct it. Those are four pretty good kids. They're all good to very good, better than what he has on the roster and better than Hackenberg."