On Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers Bryce Petty will be getting his first NFL start that was not forced by an injury to the starter. Petty's first game and a half under center for the New York Jets have not been horrifically terrible, but they have not been good. Petty comes into the game on Sunday having completed 32 of 59 passes (54.2%) with two touchdowns, three interceptions and a 59.8 passer rating. Those numbers are obviously not starting NFL QB caliber numbers, but it is such a tiny sample of play that they are not nearly enough yet to completely give up on Petty unless you had already made up your mind before he ever played.
Bryce Petty now has four games in which to show something to the Jets and their fans going into the 2017 season. Four games is likely not enough to sway the Jets to push all their chips onto the table in favor of Petty as the 2017 starter, no matter how great Petty plays. Short of putting up Hall Of Fame type numbers and making consistently good decisions, it is difficult to see Petty winning the starting 2017 job in just four 2016 games. In all likelihood, barring a complete meltdown of Ryan Leaf proportions, the Jets will not completely give up on Petty based on the next four games, and barring a Hall Of Fame level of performance, the Jets will not award him the starting job for 2017 based on the next four games.
The evaluation of Petty over the next four games is more nuanced than can he win the starting job outright? Petty will be on the roster in 2017 and will compete for a place on the Jets quarterback depth chart. Assuming he is not epically good or bad the next four games, what does he need to show for a fan to still have some realistic hope he can be a long term answer at starting quarterback for the New York Jets?
Each fan of course will answer that for themselves. For me the thought process starts with Petty's current age and experience. Bryce Petty is now nearly two full seasons into his NFL career. He also is not a particularly young second year player. Petty will turn 26 years old two months prior to the start of the Jets 2017 training camp. As a point of reference Geno Smith turned 26 years old less than two months ago, well into his fourth NFL season. So Petty will already be in his third year in the NFL in 2017, and he will already be 26 years old. That's approaching the limits of what we can continue to call a developmental player. At some point you stop being a project and start being some semblance of whatever it is you will turn out to be in the NFL. Petty isn't there yet, but he probably will be pretty close to there as the 2017 season wears on.
With that in mind I think I need to see at least one game where Petty looks the part of a good NFL quarterback. He doesn't have to do it for four games, he doesn't have to look like Aaron Rodgers out there, but I think he needs to give me at least one solid game where he is a major reason the Jets win the game, or at least are in decent position to win. Give me one game where he doesn't look lost, doesn't look overwhelmed, makes good decisions and produces quality NFL numbers. This isn't an exact thing, and there is wiggle room here, but something like 250+ yards passing, no turnovers and a couple of touchdowns, all while generally making good decisions, going through his progressions, showing decent pocket presence, looking like he understands the concepts on offense and understands what he is seeing by the defense, and avoiding costly mistakes.
Give me one game like that and I think there's still hope he can grow into an NFL starter. I expect Petty to struggle at times, I expect a few clunker games, but I'm hoping he can give me just one good game to hang some hopes on for the future. On the other hand if we don't see anything better than what we've seen so far from Petty the next four games, for me the hopes of him ever developing into a good starting quarterback in this league would fade to next to nothing. That doesn't mean I would cut him, that doesn't mean I wouldn't be willing to have him change my mind with his play in 2017, it just means my personal hopes, which are not very high for Petty in the first place, would be running on fumes if we don't see at least one complete, good performance out of him before the 2016 season ends. For me flashes here and there won't do it, and base level play along the lines of what we've seen so far won't do it either. I need a good starting NFL quarterback caliber game out of Petty.
What about you? Assuming you still have any level of hope for Bryce Petty to begin with, what do you need to see from him the rest of the way to keep hope alive? Conversely, what would it take to all but extinguish your hopes?