He has accrued more than two million Marriott points on the NFL scouting trail, hit the pause and rewind buttons at least two million times and scribbled down every relevant movement of every relevant prospect for the better part of three decades, but a suffering fan base cant get away from this haunting question in the run-up to the 2018 draft:
Can we trust Mike Maccagnan?
The general manager has been given the colossal responsibility of making the single most important Jets decision in the Super Bowl Era for his billion-dollar employer. Maccagnans choice of which quarterback to select with the No. 3 overall pick Thursday night will jolt the franchise and have far-reaching ramifications for a fanbase, owner, coach and, of course, himself.
Josh Rosen? Baker Mayfield? Josh Allen? Sam Darnold?
The pressure would bury some people. Its borderline unfair to expect miracles given this organizations star-crossed past, but its a big-boy business that calls for critical decisions with massive consequences.
If Maccagnan picks the right guy, theyll build a statue around these parts of a bearded man holding a cup of coffee one day. If Maccagnan whiffs, hell be lampooned and cursed on his way out the door like so many GMs before him.
Can the same guy who made the wrong kind of history with his solid-as-oak faith in Christian Hackenberg make the correct decision two years later?
Or will history view Bryce Petty as Strike One, Hackenberg as Strike Two and this years first-round quarterback as Strike Three for the GM?
In any job you do, there is always pressure, Maccagnan said. Your focus is really to try to make sure you stay objective in your process and you work through your process. Obviously, youre trying to make the best decision for the organization, both short and long term. But you really have to put (the pressure) aside. Everyone feels pressure.
Not this kind of pressure.
Although Maccagnan maintained that youre not overly stressed about the importance of this particular pick when grinding through tape or discussing prospects with his inner circle, the cold-harsh truth is that hes about to make the biggest draft-day decision in the post-Joe Namath Era.
Consider the circumstances surrounding Gang Greens first-round quarterback selections in the past four decades.
Mike Tannenbaum traded away one second-round pick and three easily replaceable players to move from No. 17 to No. 5 to select Mark Sanchez in 2009. The Jets, coming off a two-year playoff drought, had just won nine games the previous season. There was a clean slate for rookie coach Rex Ryan to grow with his rookie signal caller.
The Jets also tied a rookie coach to a rookie quarterback when they paired Al Groh with Chad Pennington, the 18th overall pick, in 2000. Gang Green reached the AFC Championship Game two years earlier.
The Jets were coming off back-to-back playoff appearances, including an AFC title game, when they paired new coach Joe Walton with Ken OBrien (24th overall pick) in 1983.
Maccagnan and Todd Bowles are in a much different situation entering their fourth season. The Jets, coming off back-to-back 5-11 campaigns, are in the midst of their second longest playoff drought in the Super Bowl era. Only Gang Greens 11-year disappearing act (without any winning seasons) from 1970-1980 was worse than the current seven-year funk.
The Jets gutted the premium portions of their 2018 and 2019 drafts by giving up not one, not two, but three second-round picks to move up only three spots to be in position to draft their savior at the most important position in American team sports.
But, hey, no pressure.
You just want to get it right, Maccagnan said. You understand the task at hand. You try to be as objective as possible… You have all this information and it all funnels up to the people at the top. Youre just really trying to make sure you get it right. So really, you just compartmentalize it. You dont really view the bigger scheme of things.
I have some swamp land in Florida for a good price if you actually believe that Maccagnan doesnt feel the gravity of this moment. He obviously does, but taking a measured approach is the only way for anyone in his position to thrive.
The notion that Maccagnan is destined to fail because he missed on a fourth-round and second-round quarterback is silly. Its fair to wonder exactly what he saw in Hackenberg to pull the trigger on him in the second round when nobody else in the building wanted to do that, but its patently unfair to suggest that he cant nail this upcoming pick.
Hes spent his entire adult life studying college players. Its the reason Woody Johnson hired him in the first place. In many ways, hes prepared three decades for this moment. Mike Maccagnan is not perfect. He just has to be perfect this one time.