The decision to trade for Fitzpatrick was made because of a lack of better options in the free agent market but also because of a familiarity between Fitzpatrick and Maccagnan, as well as the history between Fitzpatrick and new offensive coordinator Chan Gailey.
“With Ryan, and I was only with him for one year down in Houston, but I was really impressed with, again, his work ethic, his approach, his personality, definitely from a leadership standpoint was a positive down there. I thought he played well for us prior to getting injured. He does have history with Chan (Gailey), so that was definitely a positive in terms of Chan knowing the player,” Maccagnan said. “But again, from that standpoint, there’s a degree of being familiar with a player, but more so just know the quality of person he is. That’s probably the thing I would say the most about it, just knowing the type of person you’re bringing into the environment. From that standpoint, ability aside, that made it kind of an easy decision for me and a guy that I thought would bring a lot of value to our organization.”
The Jets made the move to trade for Fitzpatrick to compete with Smith for the starting job or to at least serve as a valuable backup and player-coach/mentor for Smith. With all the splashes the Jets made in free agency many people were not impressed simply because the team still doesn’t have a franchise quarterback, but that’s a silly way to look at it.
Of course the Jets could use a franchise quarterback everyone could believe in but there weren’t any available and to suggest the Jets shouldn’t have bothered upgrading other positions, that could help whoever the quarterback is to be at least slightly better, until they can find that franchise quarterback is foolish at best.
“I would say simply we’re trying to build the foundation for a team that has sustainable success, so my feeling would be we’re going to try to address every position, quite frankly, in terms of improving the talent at it and making it competitive,” Maccagnan said. “At this point in time, to have the opportunity to go basically spend money on players we felt were, even though, again, you’re paying a bit of a premium when you go out in free agency and sign players, but signing players we thought we were going to get a good return for our investment for. My feeling is this, we’re trying to build a foundation going into the future to be a competitive team and to turn this team around on the field, so we can’t address every need or everything we may target initially. We’re just going to spend our money wisely basically.”
As soon as the trade for Fitzpatrick became official the debate instantly began about who would win the starting job, Smith or Fitzpatrick? While this debate makes for great offseason fodder Maccagnan is having none of it. Maccagnan is in no rush to declare a favorite and he made sure to point out the decision will ultimately come down to who Todd Bowles thinks the better quarterback is.
“We have a lot of time ahead of us here before we get to the opening day roster. But I would say simply we’re trying to make every position competitive. We’ve said this all the way through. I know, again, at some point Todd (Bowles), when he gets our players on the field, I’m going to refer to Todd in terms of how he views who’s first, second or third,” Maccagnan said. “But, that being said, to me we’re a new staff and going into an offseason we have a lot of time ahead of us here to kind of go through that process. So, I’m not necessarily going to put a timetable or try to predict who is going to win or not win. It’s going to be a competitive environment and we’ll see how it all plays out.”
While Fitzpatrick has an edge on Smith because of his history with Gailey’s system Smith will get a head start on Fitzpatrick with the team this season because Fitzpatrick is still recovering from his season-ending injury from last year.
“ We’re projecting him to be back ready to go for training camp. He’ll be involved in some of the offseason stuff, OTA’s. Again, we’re taking it in consideration with his rehabilitation from his injury,” Maccagnan said. “He may be limited to a certain degree in the OTA’s so I think Geno and Matt (Simms) will get more reps probably. But Ryan will be involved also through the offseason program, but again, somewhat limited because of simply rehabilitation from the injury.”
Maccagnan was asked to give a scouting report on Mariota and Jameis Winston and he obviously declined but he did say that they have already done work on both quarterbacks, as well as others, and will continue to do more. They went to Mariota’s pro day and will hold a private workout for him and will be going to Winston’s pro day later this month.
Winston will almost certainly end up going first overall and it still appears that if Mariota was still on board when the Jets pick at six they would either pass or trade down, but Maccagnan stressed that no position will be ruled out based off of the moves they’ve already made this offseason.
“I would say, simply, that I think when it comes to the draft, I think I’ve echoed this before, the draft, to me, you tend to want to take the best player available in theory. And can whoever the best player available is, if we’re at that pick, again, not to say we’re going to lock into a certain player or a certain position, that’s the approach you want to take,” Maccagnan said. “Now, we have a long evaluation process to go through to get to that point. I would say simply I don’t think any player is either on or off our board in terms of what we would do based on our current roster. We’re going to approach it like everything, what’s the best opportunity cost in terms of what player we can add at that pick that’s going to help our team get to where we want to go.”
If the Jets don’t end up drafting a quarterback early then it will come down to either Smith or Fitzpatrick to be the Jets starter for the season. This may scare a lot of fans and cause others around the league to dismiss the Jets but it’s a scenario that Maccagnan would absolutely be good with.
When asked if he would feel good about going into training camp with Smith and Fitzpatrick battling it out for the starting job Maccagnan said, “As it stands right now? Absolutely.”