If the New York Jets truly get it, their ‘quarterback competition’ will be legitimate.
Through the years, it has been hard to separate the terms “New York Jets” and “mistakes.” There have been too many to count. We can talk about all of the blunders on the field: Butt Fumble, anyone? Don’t say the name Mark Gastineau to a Jets fan if you don’t want to hear about a costly mistake that cost them a berth in the AFC title game. Oh, don’t mention Richard Todd and “Mud Bowl” together either. Unless you don’t want to be that friend’s fan of course.
The biggest mistake, and the longest running mistake, has been the handling of the quarterback position. Why? Because in 40 years, they haven’t found one. This just in, that’s bad. Even when they choose a quarterback, they continue to put them in position to fail rather than succeed. Mark Sanchez started before he was ready, and we saw how that worked out. Geno Smith was force-fed into the lineup, and we saw how that worked out.
Can anyone make an argument that Bryce Petty or Christian Hackenberg have been given the chance to succeed? It would be a hard sell, that’s for sure. They have never gotten a real shot at being under center.
Could that change this year? If you believe Todd Bowles, there will be an open competition, per Rich Cimini of ESPN:
“There will be heavy competition for the job,” Bowles said. “Nobody has been promised the starting quarterback job. They’ll all get a chance to play and we’ll make that decision, going forward, when training camp starts as we see production from certain people.”
Josh McCown has been added to the mix. Per Spotrac, he was signed to a one-year, $6 million contract, fully guaranteed. Some believe that due to the guaranteed money, McCown will be the starting quarterback in week one, no matter what happens. Take a listen to the Turn on the Jets podcast — they are split on who the starter will be.
Bowles is selling us that it is anybody’s position. He had better be telling the truth, because if he isn’t, he is showing the NFL world that the Jets still don’t get it. It cannot be about the money. They have to put the best players out on the field, regardless of their contract.
The best example would be when Russell Wilson was a rookie. The Seahawks had signed Matt Flynn to a huge deal, but did they evaluate on the field based on the contract? No, they put the most deserving player out there, and they have gone to two Super Bowls. The Seahawks get it. The Jets have yet to prove that they get it.
All three quarterbacks must be given a fair shot at becoming the starter. That means they can’t simply be given reps with the second string and the third string. Bowles and Mike Maccagnan have to see what these players can do with the first string. They have to evaluate these guys at the top of the depth chart, and they have to do it fairly.
If they don’t, they are showing the entire league that they don’t trust these players, and that they made a mistake in selecting them. Bryce Petty has been on the team for two full years, and Christian Hackenberg has been for one. Yes, the offensive coordinator is new, but it is still imperative to see if these two guys can play. Hackenberg was a second round draft pick. So was Geno Smith and he received multiple chances to start. Can’t we see if Hackenberg can even play?
How will we know if the quarterback competition is legitimate? There will be a couple of ways. First, watch and see how the playing time is distributed. Does all of the early time go to McCown, or is it broken up? If McCown sees most of it, it will be obvious that the team’s mind is made up.
Secondly, the proof will be in the statistics. Does Petty and/or Hackenberg outplay McCown? If so, is it reflected in the depth chart? What if McCown completes 35% of his passes during the preseason and starts week one? Clearly, there was no quarterback competition and Todd Bowles wasted everybody’s time.