FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — General manager Mike Maccagnan acknowledged Thursday the New York Jets‘ offense might be functioning better with an experienced quarterback, but refused to say the team is sacrificing wins to develop Sam Darnold.
“I don’t know if you go in with the mindset of, ‘Hey, we’re just going to write this one off,'” he said. “We’re like everybody else: We want to win football games. … It’s not enjoyable to go out and lose games every week.
“I think anybody who has gone through that, or is currently going through that, it’s not a great experience. That’s not what we get paid to do. But I do think that you’re going to have to go through that maturation process at some point in time with the quarterback.”
Shortly before his midseason sitdown with reporters, Maccagnan looked out his second-floor window at the team’s training facility and noticed the first player on the practice field was Darnold. Maccagnan later shared the anecdote, painting the rookie as having the intangibles of a future franchise quarterback.
The Jets (3-5), losers of two straight, are ranked 29th in total offense and 19th in scoring offense. Darnold is tied for the league lead in interceptions, but he also has displayed a lot of promise.
“When you look at him from kind of his approach to the game, his work ethic … it’s something we knew coming in, but obviously watching him kind of handle that situation, handle the locker room, how he approaches it, his passion to be good and his competitiveness, that’s been a really big positive for him,” said Maccagnan, who drafted Darnold third overall after trading up.
The Jets have veteran Josh McCown on the bench, but they decided to go into the season with Darnold as their starter. The former USC star has taken every snap. Like the rest of the team, he’s prone to bouts of inconsistency.
Maccagnan, known for his measured approach in public, lamented the team’s up-and-down nature, but he refused to say it would be a disappointment if they fail to make the playoffs.
The Jets haven’t reached the postseason since 2010 and they’re 3-5 for the third straight season — all under Maccagnan and coach Todd Bowles. The Bowles-Maccagnan regime, installed in 2015, is 23-33. Both men received contract extensions after last season; they’re under contract through 2020.
The GM, noting the team will have a league-high $100 million in projected cap space in 2019, expressed hope that next season could be a breakthrough.
“Yeah, I think we have a lot of things in place,” Maccagnan said. “With a successful offseason, we can actually put ourselves in a position where I think — with the cap space, cash, free agency and draft picks — we could be in a position to really springboard this thing forward.”