For three years, Mike Maccagnan avoided long-term commitment at quarterback -- no first-round draft picks and no multiyear veteran contracts. It was the NFL version of speed dating.
Now in his fourth year as New York Jets general manager, Maccagnan is ready to settle down.
With a blind date.
He doesn't know which quarterbacks will be available with the third pick in Thursday night's NFL draft, but he's prepared to hitch his reputation -- and the future of the franchise -- to the best quarterback available.
If Baker Mayfield is available, he should be that guy.
Mayfield is a winner who dominated at the highest level in college. He's an ultra-competitive playmaker who made it not once but twice as a walk-on -- at Texas Tech and Oklahoma. His arm is strong enough and, unlike recent Jets draft picks, he can throw with uncanny accuracy. His moxie chafes people -- mainly opponents -- but his brash attitude is exactly what the Jets need.
When you've been beaten down for nearly 50 years, it takes a unique personality to lead your team out of the abyss. Mayfield has that "it" factor.
"He's the king of talking stuff and backing it up," an AFC scout said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
Mayfield is undersized at 6-feet-⅝, but the game is changing and quarterbacks no longer need to be 6-foot-4 pocket passers. Passing attacks are spreading out, quarterbacks are working out of the shotgun, and run-pass options are becoming popular. Mayfield played in that system at Oklahoma, but he's also capable of fitting into the Jets' West Coast offense, according to scouts. The system is predicated on quick, accurate throws, which suits him perfectly.
The concern with Mayfield is whether his ego would run amok in the New York spotlight. The scout acknowledged, "He'll eat that up; it'll be right up his alley. His head will blow up and he'll be Mr. Broadway Baker, for better or worse."
Mayfield's flag-planting, crotch-grabbing histrionics won't fly in the NFL, but the Jets don't seem overly concerned. They met with him multiple times during the pre-draft process and came away impressed -- and that includes CEO Christopher Johnson. Publicly, Maccagnan has praised Mayfield's intangibles. Quarterback Josh McCown, a fellow Texan, is a pro's pro and could help tame the wild colt.
There's one caveat: If USC's Sam Darnold somehow slips to the Jets at No. 3, he should be the choice -- and probably would be. He's not as pro-ready as Mayfield, but his upside is higher because of his size, athletic ability and innate skill as a passer. His was hampered last season by turnovers and happy feet, but he was lights out in 2016 with a better supporting cast.
Chances are the Jets' decision will come down to Mayfield versus UCLA's Josh Rosen, a conventional pocket passer with flawless mechanics. But Rosen takes a lot of hits and already has suffered two concussions. You've probably heard the talk about his personality, how it rubs people the wrong way. I've been told of two separate occasions in which he upset people with words and actions in football situations.
It takes a special quarterback to thrive in New York, and some scouts wonder whether Rosen has the physical durability and mental toughness to endure the crucible of Gotham. Adversity comes with the job, especially when you play for the Jets. There's a lot to like about Rosen, but he hasn't demonstrated the ability to carry a program the way Mayfield did at Oklahoma.
Wyoming's Josh Allen also could be available at No. 3, but Allen's risk-reward should frighten teams in the top five. He has the highest ceiling of any quarterback, but his accuracy issues are real. With a pick this high, the Jets need to minimize risk, not create it. Unless it's an elaborate smokescreen, they don't appear to have a strong interest in Allen.
There's no sure thing in this draft. As one NFC scout said, "All of these guys have really, really good things, but each guy has a handful of negatives. The guy who was probably the biggest slam dunk -- Darnold -- raised questions with his performance [last season]."
For the Jets, it's a necessary gamble. And the right choice is Mayfield.