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NY Jets: Divergent Interests

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It's not just the Jets fans who might have an interest in seeing the young Jets quarterbacks sooner rather than later.

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Jets fans have begun clamoring to see the young Jets quarterbacks in action.  With the team's playoff hopes all but extinguished at 3-6 and Ryan Fitzpatrick playing poorly, many Jets fans would like to use the remainder of the season to evaluate Jets young players. Chief among those young players Jets fans would like to see are the team's two young quarterbacks, Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg.

Petty and Hackenberg are currently the only two quarterbacks on the Jets 2017 roster.   With Geno Smith injured and unlikely to return and Ryan Fitzpatrick terrible and unlikely to return, the 2017 starting Jets quarterback may well be either Petty or Hackenberg.  With the season now lost in  the eyes of most Jets fans there is no better time than the present to begin to evaluate what Petty and/or Hackenberg bring to the table against real NFL regular season competition.

The trouble with starting either of the young quarterbacks now is the Jets head coach, Todd Bowles, is still very much interested in winning games.  Rightly or wrongly Bowles believes Fitzpatrick, notwithstanding his worst in the NFL level of play this year, still gives this team the best chance to win football games.  Bowles is only in his second year as a head coach with the Jets and his job is probably safe at least until 2017.  However, if the Jets were to lose every game left on the schedule, or, say, all but one, Bowles' grip on the position might not be so secure.  Bowles is no doubt aware he might not survive a complete collapse, and he is therefore likely to be motivated to win every game he can, evaluation of the young players be damned.  If Bowles believes Fitzpatrick gives the team the best chance to win right now, Bowles will continue to play Fitzpatrick, at least until the Jets are mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, if not longer.  That leaves Bowles somewhat at divergent interests with Jets fans in terms of evaluating the young quarterbacks.

The fans, however, may not be the only people who have divergent interests with Bowles in this matter.  General Manager Mike Maccagnan probably has a bit more job security than Bowles, if for no other reason than the fact that it takes more than two years to properly evaluate draft classes, and half of his draft picks have been here less than a year.  Even if the team were to lose every remaining game I am skeptical Maccagnan would be fired, although his seat would be very hot entering the 2017 season.  Assuming Maccagnan has a bit more job security than Bowles, Mike Maccagnan's interests in the quarterback situation may well diverge from Bowles' interests. While Bowles needs to win now, Maccagnan may well calculate that he has at least until the end of 2017 to begin to show results. If so, then it would very much behoove Maccagnan to get as long a look as possible at one or both of the young quarterbacks in real NFL action, for the purpose of evaluating whether he needs to consider drafting yet another quarterback early in the 2017 draft, or bringing in a veteran, like a Tony Romo, just as an example, who is able to win games now.  Maccagnan's career with the Jets will likely rise or fall on the strength of the next starting quarterback in New York.  Maccagnan may well be feeling the pressure to make the right choice at quarterback, and to do so he needs as much information as possible as soon as possible.  That means Maccagnan's interests lie in seeing as much as possible of one or both young quarterbacks in what's left of a lost season.

With Bowles seemingly convinced Fitzpatrick is his best chance to win games and possibly save his job to fight another year, while Maccagnan's interests lie in evaluating the young quarterbacks as soon as possible, a classic power struggle may be brewing inside the Jets hierarchy.  Maccagnan and Bowles both report directly to owner Woody Johnson; it is not all that difficult to imagine campaigns being waged behind the scenes to undermine the respective positions of the two.  All of this is of course speculation; I have no information whatsoever regarding what is actually going on inside Jets headquarters.  However, it usually makes sense to evaluate what the interests are of the parties in question.   Where they diverge, intrigue usually follows.  This may get quite a bit uglier before this ugly season is finally over.