AFC East: New York Jets

A look at what's going on around the New York Jets:

1. Revenge of the nerds: Took a trip to Boston Friday and Saturday to attend the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, where a lot of smart people in various sports gathered to discuss the impact of analytics. (Think "Moneyball.") Eighteen NFL teams were represented, not including the Jets, who attended the conference last year. With free agency and the draft approaching, it was interesting to hear executives from teams such as the New England Patriots and San Antonio Spurs -- both champions -- discuss how they use numbers, data and analytics for player evaluations and team building. Then, of course, there was Brian Burke, the president of hockey operations for the Calgary Flames.

"The notion that you can sit behind a computer and pick athletes is bulls---," Burke told the audience. He later backtracked, claiming analytics play a small role in their player-evaluation process.

The Jets are still getting situated under new general manager Mike Maccagnan, but they're not expected to ride the wave of the analytics craze.

2. Duck hunting: Howie Roseman, the Philadelphia Eagles' executive vice president of football operations, was a panelist at the conference. There was a discussion on the philosophy of trading up in the draft and, although no specific players were mentioned, you couldn't help but think of Marcus Mariota. There has been a lot of chatter about the Eagles (20th pick) trying to move up for the Oregon quarterback, perhaps swapping places with the Jets (sixth).

Roseman didn't sound keen on the concept of a blockbuster trade up.

"The history of trading up for one player, when you look at those trades, isn't good for the team trading up and putting a lot of resources into it," he said. "The guys who are really good at drafting, if you're hitting on 60 percent of your first-round picks, that's a pretty good track record and it's dropping as you go through the rounds. So, really, the more chances you get -- the more tickets to the lottery you get -- really, the better shape you're going to be."

He doesn't have the final say on personnel -- coach Chip Kelly, who covets Mariota, has that power -- so Roseman's opinion has to be kept in the proper context. Nevertheless, it gives us an idea what one voice in the Eagles' draft room might be thinking.

3. Robo QB: New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton, on a panel that covered cutting-edge technology, said he envisions the day when teams have a "quarterback simulator," as he called it -- a virtual-reality contraption in which quarterbacks can "face" specific opponents. Because of the limited amount of practice time under the collective bargaining agreement, a simulator would allow quarterbacks to get the extra practice reps they don't get on the field, he said. Think about it: If your rookie quarterback is preparing to play a complex defensive scheme, he can strap on a pair of high-tech goggles and play a virtual game against that defense.

It also could be a great tool for evaluating quarterbacks in the draft. Imagine conducting a virtual contest between Mariota and Jameis Winston, testing their decision-making, reaction time, anticipation, etc. against a "real" defense. Why stop there? The Jets could stage a virtual quarterback competition, which probably would be more intense than the actual competition that occurred last summer.

4. Fixing the schedule: The Jets can't blame their struggles in recent years on an unfair schedule -- at least not according to a professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo. Murat Kurt submitted a research paper at the Sloan conference that reveals a competitive imbalance in the regular-season schedule, showing a significant disparity in the total number of games played against extra-rested opponents -- i.e., teams coming off the bye week or a Thursday night game. From 2002 to 2014, the Jets played 16 such games. Only the Cincinnati Bengals (14), Pittsburgh Steelers (15) and Washington Redskins (15) had fewer games against extra-rested foes.

The most? The Buffalo Bills had 29, including one last season against the Jets. It didn't prevent the Bills from administering a 38-3 beatdown.

In his paper, Kurt offers a solution to the problem, but he lost me at "mixed-integer linear program."

5. Back in the real world ... : Quarterback Josh McCown, who agreed to terms with the Cleveland Browns, received a contract offer from the Jets, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. The Jets met with McCown last week at the scouting combine, so we knew there was some degree of interest. It reportedly wasn't a competitive offer, but still: Josh McCown? Granted, there aren't a lot of great options in the free-agent market, but this tells me the Jets are banking on Geno Smith or praying Mariota falls to them. By the way, McCown reportedly agreed to a three-year deal for $14 million, including $6.25 million in guarantees.

6. Chad hanging in: Former Jets quarterback Chad Pennington, a smart guy whose opinions are respected, refuses to throw in the towel on Smith. Pennington, speaking Friday on ESPN radio, said it takes three to five years to get an accurate read on a quarterback. Smith is entering his third year.

"There's no question I think Geno Smith has the physical talent," Pennington said. "He came from a spread system at West Virginia. There's obviously a huge learning curve, and I'd hate to see them give up on a talented player like this."

Another former Jets quarterback, Vinny Testaverde, also has spoken highly of Smith. It's a tight fraternity, I suppose, although something tells me Smith wouldn't get a glowing review from Mark Sanchez.

7. Waiting on Revis: I think league executives, especially those in the AFC East, are curious to see the outcome of the Darrelle Revis negotiations with the Patriots. The two sides are trying to hammer out a contract extension before March 9. Failing a new deal, they'd probably cut him because of a prohibitive $25 million cap charge for 2015 on his current deal. There's an irony here:

The Jets, who traded Revis because they didn't want to pay him, have helped his leverage by professing their interest in him. (See Woody Johnson's end-of-the-season comment about welcoming a Revis return.) That has to be in the back of New England's mind as it negotiates. The Jets, of course, could get penalized by the NFL, as the Patriots filed a tampering charge. The Jets could be fined or docked a draft pick. If that happens, they can take some solace in knowing Johnson's remark probably caused the Patriots to pay a little more than they preferred, eating up valuable cap space.

8. A pioneer calls it quits: James (Shack) Harris, 67, a longtime front-office executive who made history in 1969 when he became the first black quarterback to start an opening-day game, announced his retirement from the league this week. He worked most recently in the Detroit Lions' personnel department. Harris spent six decades in the game, leaving an indelible mark. He fulfilled his dream to play quarterback at a time in our history when young African-American players were steered to other positions. His first start came against the Jets, with whom he later worked.

Harris was the Jets' assistant general from 1993 to 1996. I remember one story about him. When they were scouting Keyshawn Johnson before the 1996 draft, the Jets dispatched Harris to the USC pro day to get an accurate 40-yard dash time. There had been some question about Johnson's speed, and they needed that last piece of information before deciding to pick him No. 1 overall. Harris, who speaks with a slow, deep drawl, doesn't waste words. He keeps it simple and direct. When he called the team after the workout to report his findings, he said simply, "Speed won't be a problem." And that was that. The Jets drafted Johnson.
ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay released his updated mock draft Thursday and, lo and behold, he projects quarterback Marcus Mariota to the New York Jets with the sixth pick. This seems to be the popular choice lately, and it makes sense. In the drafting business, they call it marrying need and value.

The Jets have a need at quarterback and Mariota represents value at No. 6. Easy, right? As I wrote last week from the scouting combine, it would be a mistake for the Jets to pass on Mariota. Publicly they haven't shared their feelings on Mariota (or Jameis Winston, for that matter), but the preliminary sense is they're not necessarily looking to draft a quarterback that high. We'll see if they feel the same way come April 30.

There's no doubt about how Jon Gruden feels about Mariota. ESPN's "Monday Night Football" analyst raved about the former Oregon star Thursday on the "Mike & Mike" radio show. Check out some of Gruden's comments:
  • "If you don't like Marcus Mariota, you don't like human beings."
  • "He's the most humble, hard-working guy maybe in this draft. I want him on my team. I'll put my system in around him."
  • "I think, personally, Marcus Mariota can play in any system. Just give him the playbook, put him in the individual drill period, train him. Give him a little time. He's not a senior, a fifth-year senior. Train the kid, teach the kid and you're going to like what you see -- fast. He's going to be relentless in his work ethic. Off the field, he's special."
INDIANAPOLIS -- If quarterbacks were judged on personality and charisma, it would be no contest between Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota.

Winston won the news conference.

In a highly anticipated media session Friday, the former Florida State star laughed off rumors of a shoulder issue and announced his intention to win the Super Bowl -- next year. Winston exuded confidence that bordered on cockiness, beginning the process of trying to clean up his image. In fact, he opened his news conference with a statement about his highly publicized off-the-field issues.

"First off, before we start anything, I want to let you all know I know made mistakes and I know I have a past, but right now it’s about me moving forward and earning the trust of all these 32 teams out there," he said.

Winston announced he will participate in Saturday's throwing drills.

The latest buzz has Winston going to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with the No. 1 overall pick. The New York Jets, picking sixth, are in the quarterback market, but there's little chance of Winston slipping that far.

A few highlights of Winston's 15-minute Q&A with the national media at the scouting combine:

On why a team should pick him over Mariota: "You know, I’m not into no competition type of thing. I’m in it to win games and be the face of someone’s franchise. This is no competition between just me and Mariota, because one thing about me, I plan on winning the Super Bowl next year. So it’s going to be me vs. Peyton Manning and Jameis vs. Tom Brady. I want to be viewed like that. After all this combine stuff, you’re not going to hear no more about Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota. I want my name to stay relevant for the next 15 or 20 years of my career."

On reports that his weight ballooned to 248 pounds after the season: "A lot of people thought I was fat, but I’m here, I’m proving everybody wrong. I look good and I know it."

On whether his baseball career is over: "Right now, I’m just focusing on football. I’m a quarterback. And this is actually the first time I’ve ever had an offseason to just work on being a quarterback. I’ve been playing baseball. I was a pitcher. That may be why the shoulder thing. But, I mean, this is the first time I’ve had an offseason and I love it. I love just putting everything to football. I’m a quarterback. This is what I do."

On how he plans to earn the trust of teams: "My actions. I have to do everything by my actions. It’s not time to explain about what I’m going through but when I do get to a city and a team I plan on getting involved in the community and create an image, a positive image, and put everything else behind me."

On the prospect of being picked No. 1 overall: "I think it would just be a privilege to play in Tampa, period. With the Florida State fan base and everything I’ve been involved with in the state of Florida and by Coach [Lovie] Smith speaking highly of me, that lets me know if I’m a part of their program, I already have a trust factor in with him and now all I have to do is accept his trust and gain his trust to help him out."
INDIANAPOLIS -- Marcus Mariota received rock-star treatment Thursday at the NFL scouting combine, but he didn't act like one.

True to his reputation as a laid-back quarterback, the former Oregon star didn't blow into his packed news conference acting like one of the top prospects in the upcoming draft. He was humble, soft-spoken and businesslike.

Broadway Marcus, he's not. Some scouts have questioned whether Mariota is wired to handle a big market like New York.

[+] EnlargeMarcus Mariota
AP Photo/David J. PhillipMarcus Mariota was true to his laid-back persona at the combine on Thursday.
Mariota, who could be drafted sixth overall by the New York Jets, fielded questions for 15 minutes from the national media. Part of the interview focused on the challenge of making the transition from a no-huddle, spread offense to a pro-style system. It takes some quarterbacks years to make the adjustment. Mariota said, "My goal is to make an impact from Day 1" -- and that was the closest he came to showing an ego.

A few highlights from his Q&A:

  • On what he considers his greatest challenge: "For me, it's going to be huddling. I haven't huddled in a while. That'll be the No. 1 thing. It seems like a little detail, but it's a big thing. There are other things as well -- three-, five- and seven-step drops. That's all stuff I've been working on."
  • On whether he's motivated by those who question whether he can thrive in a pro-style offense: "I guess you could say it's a little bit of motivation, but it's not the reason why I'm doing this. There's a purpose for why I'm doing this. I love the game and I want to be part of this for a long time."
  • On how he benefitted from being tutored by former NFL backup Kevin O'Connell, who was hired this week as the Cleveland Browns' quarterbacks coach: "He gave me a play sheet and he told me to read the play calls out loud every night. That's something little, but as this process goes, it's going to help me to get used to speaking in a huddle. It's new. I haven't done it since high school." (Mariota also mentioned that he has been working out with San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers.)
  • On whether he considers himself the best quarterback in the draft: "As an athlete, as a competitor, any person would tell you they're the best. I truly believe that in myself. We'll see whatever decision is made."
Need a laugh? Check this out:

Former New York Jets tight end Kellen Winslow, Jr., who last graced this space 13 months ago when he was arrested for ... uh, illegal contact in a New Jersey parking lot, decided Tuesday to echo running back Chris Johnson's comments about the Jets misleading him about his role on the team. Winslow, out of football, took to Twitter to support Johnson and tweak his former employer.

This, of course, is hysterical. Winslow's comments are akin to Kanye West offering tips on stage etiquette. Winslow neglects to mention he missed four games in 2013 due to a performance-enhancing drug suspension. That, more than politics, hurt his ability to build chemistry with quarterback Geno Smith. He also wasn't able to practice on a regular basis because of a chronic knee issue.

Based on his hashtag, Winslow is blaming former general manager John Idzik, the popular scapegoat for everything that went wrong with the Jets in 2013 and 2014. Look, Idzik made a lot of mistakes, ultimately paying with his job, but he doesn't deserve to get ripped by a has-been tight end who embarrassed the organization. Idzik gave Winslow a free-agent tryout, and eventually a job, when no one else in the league wanted near him.

Honestly, I don't know if the Jets lied to Johnson about his playing time. What I do know is this: He was the second-best running back on the team and the Jets finished No. 3 in rushing offense. Like a lot of once-great players, Johnson probably is having trouble accepting his new reality: He's not the player he used to be. There's no crime in that. The troubling part is when they blame others.
In his first noteworthy move as general manager of the New York Jets, Mike Maccagnan said goodbye Saturday to the NFL's second-leading rusher since 2008. He declined to exercise a $500,000 option bonus for Chris Johnson, setting him free after one season.

It was a no-brainer.

The Jets took a calculated risk last offseason, betting that a once-great player with a chip on his shoulder would come in and give them a LaDainian Tomlinson-type season, circa 2010. It didn't happen that way. Johnson was held back by two men -- Father Time and the father of the Jets' offense, Marty Mornhinweg, who limited Johnson's touches.

Johnson carried the ball a career-low 155 times and played only 37 percent of the offensive snaps as Mornhinweg refused to deviate from his Johnson-Chris Ivory time share. Maybe it was justified; it's not as if Johnson provided a ton of evidence to the contrary. Clearly, his 29-year-old legs (a lot older in running back years) didn't have the same magic he showed in his glory years with the Tennessee Titans.

He was a below-average runner on first down (3.84 yards per carry) and he never made an impact as a receiver, recording only five receptions on third down. The Jets had big plans for Johnson. They talked about getting him the ball in space, allowing him to use his blazing open-field speed.

As it turned out, he caught only four balls when split out of the backfield. He had a couple of dropsie days in training camp, and the coaching staff seemed to lose confidence in his ability as a receiver. All things considered, he wasn't terrible and he wasn't great. He was, as Bill Parcells used to say, a JAG -- just a guy. CJ2K never it made it to CJ1K, finishing with 663 yards.

If there was any doubt about his future, it was eliminated in January, when Johnson was arrested for the open carrying of a handgun. The new regime would've sent a bad message by re-upping the first player on its watch to get arrested.

But, hey, the contract wasn't a killer. They paid him $4 million last season, and they'll get stuck with a $1.75 million charge this year, hardly cap-crippling. It simply didn't make sense to keep him on the roster at $5.25 million, not when that money could be used for a younger version of Johnson.

Did someone say C.J. Spiller?

Spiller is a pending free agent and looms as a possibility because of his background with coordinator Chan Gailey and his system. Gailey was the Buffalo Bills' coach when they drafted Spiller out of Clemson in 2010, and he was a great fit in Gailey's spread offense. A dangerous two-way threat, Spiller enjoyed a career year in 2012, racking up 1,703 yards from scrimmage. He spent the last two seasons injured or in Doug Marrone's doghouse.

Spiller, 27, makes a lot of sense for the Jets. Now we'll see if old friend Rex Ryan keeps him from walking out of Buffalo.
Soon-to-be free agent Antonio Cromartie hasn't been shy about expressing his willingness to consider a reunion with Todd Bowles. With apologies to Billy Joel, Cromartie is in a New York state of mind.

"I'm definitely trying to keep him here," Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson told Cards reporter Josh Weinfuss. "It's going to be tough, especially with Todd being in New York and he loves [New York].

"That's all he talks about is freaking New York. I'm definitely trying to get him to stay and we'll see what happens."

On the surface, it seems like a natural fit. The Jets are desperate for cornerbacks and Cromartie, coming off a rebound season in Arizona, played well in Bowles' man-to-man system. He made the Pro Bowl, albeit as an alternate.

Cromartie, who played for the Jets from 2010 to 2013, was released in a salary-cap move after a poor season in 2013. He played through a hip injury, which probably affected his performance. The Jets wanted to re-sign him, but he ended up signing a one-year, $3.5 million deal with the Cards.

Cromartie told Weinfuss the Jets are an "attractive" option because he still owns a home in New Jersey. Not wanting to hurt his leverage, Cromartie said he's keeping his options open.

The problem with Cromartie is he will be 31 in April, so we're not talking about a long-term answer. Even though he's a workout fanatic in the offseason, it's hard to beat Father Time. Cromartie relies so much on his speed, and he might have trouble adjusting when that speed starts to slip. In the end, it'll probably come down to money. It usually does.

If he demands a long-term deal with significant guarantees, the Jets should take a pass and shop for a younger player. There will be younger options in free agency, such as Kareem Jackson, Brandon Flowers, Byron Maxwell and Darrelle Revis (maybe). If Cromartie is willing to be flexible and take a short-term deal, he'd be a worthwhile choice.
There will be a lot of speculation in the coming weeks about the future of wide receiver Percy Harvin, who arrived last October in a trade with the Seattle Seahawks.

The New York Jets face a multilayered decision, one that will be based primarily on his contract ($10.5 million in 2015) and the draft-pick compensation they will owe the Seahawks to complete last October's trade.

Here's what you need to know:

The key date is March 19.

If Harvin remains on the Jets' roster after 4 p.m. on the 10th day of the league year (March 19), the Jets must give their fourth-round draft pick to the Seahawks. If the Jets release him before then, they owe the Seahawks a sixth-round choice.

The Jets were smart to make it March 19. Two reasons:

It gives them nine days to explore wide-receiver options in free agency. If they find a better player than Harvin, they can sign that player, cut Harvin and retain their fourth-round pick. The date also gives them leverage in any renegotiation talks with Harvin. If the Jets want to re-work his deal and he declines, the team can keep him until March 18, meaning he'd miss the first wave of free agency -- when the big money is doled out.

If the Jets keep Harvin on the roster beyond the deadline, it doesn't guarantee his $10.5-million base salary and it wouldn't preclude them from cutting him at a later date. But looking at it from a practical standpoint, it wouldn't make sense to dump a player after committing a fourth-round pick.

What if the Jets try to circumvent the draft-pick upgrade by cutting him before March 19 and re-signing him at a later date? Sorry, that won't work. In other words, if they cut him March 18 and re-sign him at any point before the second day of the draft (May 1), they owe a fourth-rounder to the Seahawks.

In terms of the financials, Harvin's contract no longer contains any guaranteed money, meaning there would be no salary-cap ramifications if they decide to part ways. His salaries after 2015 are $9.9 million, $9.95 million and $11.15 million.

Basically, it's a year-to-year contract, so what the Jets have to decide is this: Do they give up a sixth-round pick for the half-year he gave them in 2014 or do they surrender a fourth-rounder for a minimum of 1 1/2 years?

Interesting decision.
The New York Jets' coaching staff should be just about complete.

On Thursday, head coach Todd Bowles filled the only position-coach vacancy on his staff, hiring former Minnesota Vikings tight ends coach Jimmie Johnson for the same position. Johnson, a former tight end who played with Bowles on the Washington Redskins, worked with the Vikings from 2006 to 2013. He was out of football last season.

The Jets also announced the hirings of Daylon McCutcheon (assistant secondary) and Ryan Slowik (assistant defensive line/quality control). McCutcheon retired 10 years ago after a seven-year career in the league, playing under Bowles from 2001 to 2004 with the Cleveland Browns. He has no NFL coaching experience; he spent last season as a coaching intern for the Arizona Cardinals, reuniting with Bowles.

Slowik, who has 10 years of NFL coaching experience, spent the last two seasons with Bowles as the Cardinals' assistant secondary coach.
General manager Mike Maccagnan made another key hire Thursday in his rebuilt front office, naming former Chicago Bears scout Rex Hogan the senior director of college scouting for the New York Jets.

Hogan replaces longtime front-office executive Terry Bradway, who was fired recently.

Hogan has spent his entire NFL career with the Bears. He started as a college scout in 2003 under former Bears GM Jerry Angelo and was bumped up to national scout in 2012. As a national scout, he was responsible for the West region.

Before the NFL, Hogan worked on the college level at Notre Dame and Utah, dealing with recruiting and football operations.

Hogan became the Jets' second front-office addition this week. Previously, they hired Brian Heimerdinger as the director of player personnel.
Belichick/CarrollGetty ImagesA former Jets coach -- Bill Belichick or Pete Carroll -- will be celebrating another title Sunday.

On Jan. 3, 2000, Victor Green walked into Bill Belichick's office and gave him a crystal paper weight, purchased from Tiffany -- a congratulatory gift on the day of his promotion. Belichick was succeeding Bill Parcells, who was planning to announce his retirement that day. Green left the office excited about the prospect of Belichick coaching the New York Jets.

"I remember it like it was yesterday," the former safety said last week.

The Jets' public relations director, Frank Ramos, also visited Belichick's office that day, but he didn't come away with the same positive feeling. His plan was to have Belichick attend Parcells' farewell news conference, creating a symbolic passing of the torch. But Belichick refused to join the festivities, prompting Ramos to think, "Something doesn't feel right."

We all know what happened the next day: Instead of a coronation, Belichick stunned the team by resigning as the "HC of the NYJ." That news conference took "bizarre" to a new level -- and Belichick did it again Saturday, delivering his "Mona Lisa Vito" defense amid Deflategate accusations.

No doubt, Deflategate will be the dominant story this week. It will provide some amusement for Jets fans -- they love to see Belichick squirm -- but it won't eliminate the cold, hard facts. It has been 46 years since the Jets reached the Super Bowl. The kids of the 1960s who idolized Joe Namath and celebrated Super Bowl III are middle-aged folks, having exchanged their radical white cleats for Velcro-strapped sneakers.

This year's matchup, between Belichick's New England Patriots and Pete Carroll's Seattle Seahawks, probably stings more than the other empty years because the two coaches are former Jets. Welcome to Super Bowl EX.

The Jets had future greatness in the building, but they tossed it out (Carroll) and watched in disbelief as it walked out (Belichick).

Carroll lasted one year as the head coach, Belichick one day.

Eight conference championships later, their careers will intersect Sunday in Glendale, Arizona, with Carroll trying to match what Belichick accomplished in 2003 and 2004 -- win back-to-back Super Bowl titles. No other coach has done it since then.

"It's kind of heartbreaking," said former Jets linebacker Marvin Jones, imagining what might have been.

Fifteen years ago, the Jets knew they were losing a brilliant defensive coach, but who knew Belichick would become the Lombardi of his era? He failed with the Cleveland Browns, so he was hardly a sure thing. Obviously, the Patriots thought otherwise. So did Green.

"I knew we were losing something pretty special," said Green, who also played a year under Belichick in New England. "I always tell people, Belichick is the best coach at every position in the NFL. That's how highly I think of him."

Belichick's legacy could be tainted by the Spygate scandal of 2007, and there will be another ugly stain on his record if the NFL's Deflategate investigation uncovers a smoking gun. If so, it's "the Barry Bonds thing, an asterisk next to his name," Jones said. "He'll always have that attached to him. But Belichick is one of those coaches that doesn't give a s---."

Like Green, Jones played for both Belichick and Carroll. Belichick was the Jets' defensive coordinator from 1997 to 1999 and Jones called him a "great coach." They said the same thing about Carroll, who was their defensive coordinator before becoming head coach in 1994. It's a fascinating comparison because the two coaches are so different, yet so much alike.

Personality-wise, Carroll and Belichick are as dissimilar as Jim Carrey and Sean Penn, but they share a self-confidence that allows them to coach aggressively. In other words, they're never afraid to wander outside the box. In the AFC divisional playoffs, Belichick confused the Baltimore Ravens with his funky formations and gadget plays. Carroll's successful fake field goal in the NFC Championship Game was a brilliant move; it changed the game for Seattle.

Carroll was hardly a star in his only season as the Jets' coach, finishing 6-10, but he was admired by many in the organization. He was upbeat and energetic -- and still is.

His former players remember him fondly, especially his pep talks. They said he had the ability to turn a casual, pregame conversation in a hotel lobby into a fire starter. He liked to use audio and visual aids during his speeches. One time, his special effects were provided by Mother Nature. Carroll pounded his fist on a podium a split-second before a clap of thunder, which knocked out the lights in the building. The timing was perfect, like something out of a corny Hollywood movie.

Carroll was criticized by fans and media for some of his methods -- too nice, they said -- but he's winning big with the same style in Seattle.

"I knew Pete was a good coach, it just took him 20 years to prove it," former Jets center Jim Sweeney said. "He was ahead of his time."

Former defensive tackle Paul Frase also was a Carroll fan, but he said the coach's "laid-back mentality didn't work well" at that particular time because of the changing landscape in the NFL. Free agency was in its infancy, and the big money was starting to pour into the players' bank accounts. That created a sense of entitlement among some players, according to Frase, who commended Carroll for taking the USC job in 2001. That allowed him to gain a greater understanding of the young minds preparing to enter the league, Frase said.

Carroll never got a chance to evolve on the Jets' job because owner Leon Hess woke up one day and decided he had to have Rich Kotite. It was a cold ending for Carroll.

When the season ended, Carroll spent a week formulating his plan for 1995. He carried a thick binder into a meeting with Hess, excited to share his thoughts on the future, but the session lasted less than a minute. Hess dropped the hammer because he wanted Kotite to be the head of "the Jets' family," as he put it.

A few days earlier, Hess was in the Bahamas when he heard on TV that Kotite had been fired by the Philadelphia Eagles. With some prodding by his daughter -- yes, really -- the wealthy oil man opted to change coaches. It was so out of character for Hess, who usually let his football people run the show.

"I was totally surprised and, quite frankly, disappointed," said Ramos, who was close to the late owner. "I always thought Pete was an outstanding coach."

A year ago, Ramos was invited to the Super Bowl at MetLife Stadium as a guest of commissioner Roger Goodell, and they watched Carroll's Seahawks claim the Lombardi Trophy on the same plot of land where he once coached the Jets. Ramos was genuinely happy for Carroll, who refused to be ruined by a premature pink slip 20 years ago.

No matter what happens Sunday, a former Jets coach will be celebrating another title. Will it be the guy they kicked out or the guy who bolted?
Spurned recently by the New York Giants, Pepper Johnson is back with the New York Jets.

Johnson, who expressed his frustration last week after being passed over for the Giants' defensive coordinator job, was hired Saturday to coach the Jets' defensive line. Johnson played for the Jets in 1997 and 1998 before embarking on his coaching career. He spent 14 years as a New England Patriots assistant before leaving the Bill Belichick nest last year to become the Buffalo Bills' defensive line coach.

Johnson has no previous working experience with new coach Todd Bowles, but they share a mentor -- Bill Parcells. Johnson played for Parcells with the New York Giants and Jets; Bowles coached for Parcells with the Jets, Dallas Cowboys and Miami Dolphins.

The popular former linebacker coveted the Giants' defensive coordinator position. He interviewed for the job, but it went to Steve Spagnuolo, who previously had won a Super Bowl ring as a member of Tom Coughlin's staff.

"Moving away from the Patriots, spending a year in Buffalo, I was hoping it would open doors and open some eyes, that more people would be watching,” Johnson told the New York Daily News, "and [that some team] will give me a call before all this is said and done.

"I feel bottled up," he said. "I have a lot of knowledge and a lot of information that I feel like I just have to keep to myself."

Johnson steps into a great situation, as he will be in charge of the strongest positions on the team. The Jets' defensive line is led by Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson, who will play Sunday night in the Pro Bowl.

The Jets ended up swapping defensive line coaches with the Bills. Their former coach, Karl Dunbar, followed Rex Ryan to Buffalo.
You will be reading a lot about the 2015 NFL draft in this space over the next few months, but let's take a moment to look back at 2014, with help from ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr.

Kiper re-grades every team's draft class in an Insider piece Insider. His first impression of the New York Jets' draft -- aka the Idzik 12 -- was positive. In fact, his grade was a B. That was back in May, when John Idzik was preaching his "build-through-the-draft" mantra.

Obviously, the draft didn't perform to a B level, as only two players emerged as significant contributors -- first-round safety Calvin Pryor and second-round tight end Jace Amaro. Pryor started 11 games, but he was a mild disappointment because he made no big plays and missed too many tackles. In fairness, he played most of the season out of position, deployed as a free safety because of deficiencies in the secondary. Amaro wasn't a game-changer, but he showed promise with 38 receptions, tied for second on the team.

After them, there wasn't much to get excited about. Idzik's biggest failure was striking out at wide receiver. In arguably the greatest receiver draft in history, the Jets picked three receivers that combined for zero catches. Desperate, Idzik traded for Percy Harvin, which cost them a draft pick, $7 million in salary and ate up $7 million in future cap space because of the rollover rule -- and Harvin didn't change anything. They were 1-6 before he arrived; they went 2-6 in games he played (he sat out the season-ending win with a rib injury).

Kiper's re-grade is lower than a B (check out the Insider), but it's not as low as you might think. Maybe he was grading on a curve.

You should also check his re-grade of the Houston Texans, considering the Jets' new general manager -- Mike Maccagnan -- was the Texans' director of college scouting. Kiper loved the draft in May (A-). Now, not so much.
Remember that report in early December, the one about Rex Ryan being so upset with offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg that he considered firing him during the season?

Naturally Ryan denied it, calling it "100 percent false." He also insisted there wasn't a rift between himself and Mornhinweg, saying, "I’m tight with every single coach here. I believe in every single coach that I have, and that’s the truth."

Actions speak louder than words, as they say, and Ryan's actions in the last couple of weeks suggest that he and Mornhinweg weren't simpatico.

Consider: Since being named the head coach of the Buffalo Bills, Ryan has hired nine members of his New York Jets staff. The latest to ride the Florham Park-to-Orchard Park shuttle is Anthony Lynn, who will coach the Bills' running backs and have the additional title of assistant head coach, as he did with the Jets.

If you're keeping score, only four coaches (we're talking coordinators and position coaches) haven't gone to the Bills -- Mornhinweg, special-teams coach Thomas McGaughey, offensive line coach Mike Devlin and tight ends coach Steve Hagen.

Devlin jumped at an early offer to coach the Houston Texans' offensive line. McGaughey never was a consideration because Ryan ended up retaining Danny Crossman. So, basically, Mornhinweg and Hagen are the only ones who didn't follow Ryan to the Bills.

Before he was hired by the Bills, Ryan already had aligned himself with Greg Roman as his coordinator. Unlike Mornhinweg, Roman, a former offensive line coach, will happily run the ball as much as Ryan wants.

Ryan and Mornhinweg weren't a philosophical fit for the Jets. They made it through 2013 thanks to a strong running game and a feel-good finish, but they clashed last season on how to handle Geno Smith. Mornhinweg put more on Smith's plate at the start of the season, but he was reeled in by Ryan. In the end, it all backfired. Hence, 4-12.

Mornhinweg ended up taking a job as the Baltimore Ravens' quarterbacks coach, a move down the coaching ladder. We'll see how things shake out with Hagen and McGaughey, who has been linked to the San Francisco 49ers' special-teams job, but Mornhinweg is the only member of Ryan's 2014 staff to take a demotion.

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- A few takeaways from the first official day of the "MacBowles" era:

1. A new vibe at One Jets Drive: Unlike their rivals to the northeast, the New York Jets have been dealing with deflation issues for some time, so to speak -- four straight years out of the playoffs. Rex Ryan's act got stale, and it was time for a change. GM Mike Maccagnan and coach Todd Bowles, introduced Wednesday to the media, came across as sincere, blue-collar types, sans the Ryan bravado. They will bring a fresh approach. Will it be the right approach? No one knows for sure. They're rookies, after all. New doesn't guarantee better. None of the day one pleasantries will matter if they don't find a quarterback.

[+] EnlargeMike Maccagnan, Todd Bowles
Julio Cortez/AP PhotoJersey boys Mike Maccagnan, left, and Todd Bowles, right, are tasked with solving the Jets' quarterback problem.
2. BFFs? Not yet: I have milk in my refrigerator that is older than the Maccagnan-Bowles relationship. They've known each other for only a week, so it's impossible to say if they will be compatible over the long term. The early signs are positive, but how will they handle adversity? What happens when there's a disagreement in the draft room? Clearly, they're learning each other on the fly. This type of arranged marriage is unusual in the NFL. Owner Woody Johnson tried it in 2013, pairing Ryan with John Idzik. It backfired because they had different agendas. At least Maccagnan and Bowles are starting out together.

3. Rex's presence: The news conference took place beneath a giant slogan painted across the top of a high wall in the team auditorium: "Play Like a Jet!" It's a Ryan-ism, one he quoted many times during his six-year tenure. I wouldn't be surprised if Johnson hires painters to handle some touch-up work before the next team meeting.

4. Different kind of coach: One comment from Johnson that jumped out was his take on Bowles' coaching style, his "ability to be above just a defensive coordinator … and be able to take a 30,000-foot look at offense, defense, special teams." This is a departure from Ryan, who immersed himself in the defense. Bowles said he won't call the defensive plays and will take more than a cursory interest in the offense. This is good. This will create a "one-team" perception, not an offense/defense split.

5. About the offense: Bowles didn't provide any specifics on his plans for the offense, except to say he believes he hired the right coordinator in Chan Gailey. Bowles spewed coaching platitudes, saying he wants "good balance. … We want to be tough. We don't want to be pushed around. We want to be explosive. We want to be all of those things." That's what they all say. It would've been nice to hear thoughts on the current personnel and how they might be used based on their knowledge of the players.

6. Taking a pass on Geno: Both men were noncommittal on Geno Smith. Bowles said Smith was "a great college quarterback," which is akin to telling Bowles, "You were a great secondary coach." That's ancient history; it doesn't matter anymore. It seems fairly obvious that Bowles and Maccagnan aren't in love with Smith, and why would they be? He's only 11-18 as a starter. Later, in an interview with ESPN New York 98.7, Maccagnan said he's intrigued by Smith's potential. He also said, "I don't know exactly what Geno will become for us, per se." Translation: Don't get too comfortable in the No. 1 chair, Geno.

7. Jersey Boys: If you like wrapping your arms around a homecoming story, this is a good one. Maccagnan grew up in Hightstown (Exit 8 on the New Jersey Turnpike), about 36 miles from Bowles' hometown, Elizabeth (Exit 13). Bowles' high school used to conduct a preseason camp at Maccagnan's alma mater, the Peddie School. Maccagnan, 47, four years younger than Bowles, suspects he probably watched his future head coach on a practice field in the late 1970s. New Jersey has produced some great coaches. Do the names Lombardi and Parcells ring a bell? The Jets will sign up for anything close to that.