Spend five minutes with Mike Maccagnan and you cannot help but like him.
There’s such a soothing, disarming manner about him that it makes you wonder if his blood pressure ever spikes above its normal resting rate.
Maccagnan never raises his voice and is a humble, self-deprecating sort. Simply put: He’s someone you’d enjoy hanging out with over a few beers or a bottle of wine at dinner.
Maccagnan’s manner has been embraced by Jets ownership. But as well-liked and respected as he is, Thursday’s first round of the NFL draft represents a critical pressure point in Maccagnan’s tenure as Jets general manager, which is entering its fourth season.
Maccagnan cannot miss with whichever quarterback he selects with the third overall pick in this draft and survive to pick another one.
Not counting his 2015 fourth-round selection of Bryce Petty, Maccagnan already is 0-for-1 at drafting quarterbacks high — picking Christian Hackenberg in the second round of the 2016 draft, a choice that was not universally embraced inside the Jets’ building.
If Maccagnan’s next pick — whether it’s USC’s Sam Darnold, Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, UCLA’s Josh Rosen or whomever — doesn’t become the franchise quarterback the Jets are so starved to find, owners Woody and Chris Johnson will have no recourse but to fire him.
Hackenberg, as no Jets fan needs to be reminded, has not played a single snap in his two NFL seasons and, barring a miracle, he’ll soon be released from the organization having never played a single down.
Some general managers with high draft picks don’t get a second chance to select a potential franchise quarterback. None gets a third. That makes this the most important draft of Maccagnan’s NFL career, a distinguished one that spans more than 26 years, mostly in scouting.
On Monday, speaking to reporters for the final time in advance of Thursday’s first round, Maccagnan did his best to deflect the obvious elements of pressure he faces with this draft.
“I think you always feel stress wherever you’re picking,” Maccagnan said. “I’ve been on teams that have had the first pick in the draft [the 2006 Texans picking Mario Williams when Maccagnan was the team’s director of college scouting]. You feel pressure, but you feel pressure to get it right wherever you are.
“You never know what decision you may make that may be impactful on the organization’s future. But you sort of compartmentalize it. You really sort of just look at it, make sure you’re being objective in your process and you try to be as accurate as possible.”
On Thursday night, Maccagnan must be more accurate than the highest completion percentage of any of the top quarterbacks he and the Jets have scouted in advance of this big decision.
Picking a quarterback this high in the draft is a franchise-altering event — one way or another. The extremes are the Colts taking Peyton Manning first overall in 1998 and the Chargers taking Ryan Leaf one pick later. Jets fans lament a long list of highly touted hopefuls who teased but didn’t work out — from Browning Nagle to Mark Sanchez.
Giants general manager Dave Gettleman, gregarious, combative and colorful with the media (which makes him Maccagnan’s opposite), boldly told reporters last week that when a team is picking as high as the Giants at No. 2, he expects that player to one day be wearing the gold jacket as a Hall of Fame inductee.
Maccagnan, with the third overall pick, doesn’t necessarily need to land a future Hall of Fame quarterback, but he absolutely, positively must find a long-term starter who’s good enough to make the Jets a title contender.
Gettleman last week said the words Maccagnan avoided like the plague on Monday when he stated, “When you’re picking this high, if you make a mistake, you’re done. When you miss on a quarterback, you really hurt the franchise for probably five years. It’s a five-year mistake.
“Yeah, it’s a big decision, but as long as you’ve done your homework and turned all the rocks over, you will come to the right answer.’’
Because Maccagnan not only is a good man but one with a good eye for personnel and building a team. Hopefully — for all involved — he comes up with the right answer Thursday night.
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