Preview: Game 1 (@ New York Jets)

Summary: I am writing this Sunday at 12:16 PM. I have been trying to get the other three pieces of the preview done (the unit reviews and the prediction), but I write too slowly for that.  I’ll try to do those tomorrow, and get the game preview up now.

So this will be quick,. with less detail than normal.

Background: The 2015 New York Jets are more or less where the Browns were a year ago– hoping the rookie GM and rookie coach know what they are doing.

It’s the problem with hiring someone who’s never done the job before. You don’t know whether they can do the job, so you could get a Ray Farmer. But then there is this: Most of the coaches and executives in the Hall of Fame get hired only once.

That’s not as true right now, what with Bill Belicheat (fired once), Tom Coughlin (once) and Pete Carroll (twice) being retreads. Some GMs (Ron Wolf, Bobby Beathard) get guys who get fired because something goes wrong, or they get into a fight with the owner.

But the majority of the guys are one and done. Nobody will get to hire Ozzie Newsome or John Harbaugh, just like nobody got to hire George Young or Bill Cowher.

The evidence is scant, but I’m guessing the Jets got the right guys.

GM Mike McCagnan is a protege of Charley Casserly, the former GM of the Redskins (he got the third Super Bowl with Joe Gibbs) from 1989-99 and then Houston, from 2000-2006.

Casserly is a smart old guy who isn’t as good as he thinks he is, but is better than his detractors. His greatest failing was terrible taste in head coaches: Richie Pettibon and Norv Turner in Washington, then Dom Capers in Houston.  His teams always had a lot of talent– and then they underachieved.

Between jobs with Washington and Houston, McCagnan kicked around every league except the NFL, doing pretty well. He was GM of the London Monarchs of the World League of American Football; they won a title. He didn’t do much for the Ottawa Roughriders of the CFL, but he got the Saskatchewan Roughriders into the playoffs.

No that’s not a typo. Yes two teams in the same league have the same name. Hey, the McKenzie Brothers both had the same last name too, so take off, eh?

The good thing about working in fringe leagues is you need to be able to adjust your perspective, to find players whom you can sign who can play well for you. If you can adjust your perspective in other leagues, it usually means you can do it in the NFL

McCagnan became head of scouting in 2011. Read into this whatever you like. In 2011, the Texans were looking for a pass rusher, and the big names were Nick Fairley, Robert Quinn, Ryan Kerrigan and Cameron Jordan.

Quinn, Kerrigan and Jordan have all made the Pro Bowl, but the  Texans passed them up to take a flyer on some guy named J.J. Watt. Just guessing, but Rick Smith had never been that smart before.

Coach Todd Bowles has been getting interviews for 10 years. At first I thought it was the Rooney Rule at work– but it was the good teams– the ones who hire smart coaches– calling him in. They he took over in Miami in 2011 for three games and went 2-1. Then Bruce Arians hired him to run the Arizona defense.

All in all, he’s worked (in some capacity) for Arians, Mike Holmgren, Andy Reid, Bill Parcells, Wade Phillips and Tony Sparano. Not an all-world cast, but a good one.

He was also here in Cleveland under Butch Davis, which is how he and Arians met. They decided, if one ever got hired as head coach, he’d hire the other guy,

Bowles did a good job in ARizona. The Cardinals defense– which Ray Horton claimed was good in his press conferences– actually became good under Bowles.


The Team: It’s recovering from Rex Ryan’s reign of error, meaning that it’s a lot like the team Pettine inherited. Ryan never wanted a quarterback who was accurate or could read defenses or be mature– he was always fascinated by “Shake and bake” guys who had skills but no sense.

Bowles has Ryan Fitzpatrick in there now. Fits[atrick is one of the Brian Hoyer, Kyle Orton type guys. Not a great player– but he beat the Browns last year when he was playing for Houston.

The 2014 Jets had players last year, but they also had a lot of problem players. Bowles cleaned out all the loudmouths and head cases (a substantial number of whom moved on to Buffalo with Ryan) and got people who keep their mouths shut and do their jobs.

OK, not DBs Darrelle Revis or Antonio Cromartie, but they can both play.


The Game: Does Bowles have enough talent to beat the Browns? He does at defensive back… and if the Browns ask Josh McCown to throw, he’ll get them beat.

The defensive line probably isn’t good enough to outmuscle Cleveland, but who knows if the Browns have the talent to run?

Since this is at New York, I’m gonna guess Jets 17-13. But this could clearly go either way. If Josh McCown is the player the Browns keep saying he is, the Browns will win.

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