It’s been said that the backup quarterback is always the most popular guy on a team. At One Jets Drive, that seems to be the case nearly every single season. Calls have been made for the backup every year since..... 2009? Maybe even longer than that?
After Saturday’s 31-32 loss to the Giants, that call is no longer. Today, fans don’t want the #2 quarterback.
They want the #3 guy. Bryce Petty.
No matter how many times an “open competition” has been pitched to the media, there has never been a time since Josh McCown joined the team that anybody thought Petty had a chance at the starting job. There’s six million reasons why he couldn’t beat out McCown, and 52 picks that separated him from Hackenberg.
Yet, we’ve come to the point where not starting Petty would be a sign of some real ineptitude within the Jets hierarchy.
McCown is the most experienced and highest paid quarterback on the team. He’s been the favorite to start all along. However, the bottom line is the Jets are rebuilding. They have two young quarterbacks they need to know about going forward. With McCown quickly losing practice and playing time it appears that they have decided to overlook him for the young quarterbacks. And that’s a good thing, poor allotment of cap space aside.
Even if they did decide to start McCown, he’d inevitably hand the job over to one of the other two quarterbacks at some point. It wouldn’t be applauded, but it would be somewhat understood why Bowles went with his most experienced quarterback to begin the year. So what would be the problem with starting McCown right now?
The problem is this. Would they really start a newly signed quarterback Week 1 who played one drive in the preseason’s first three weeks and received little to no practice time at all afterward? This right here is what would make the decision to start McCown baffling at this point, even if it means six million dollars are sitting on the bench. It’s not fair to McCown to give him no preparation, not fair to the offense who didn’t get to work with their quarterback, and not fair to Petty, who was given extended opportunities and took advantage of them. It’s very poor roster management.
That leaves Hackenberg and Petty. Petty struggled in his limited time last season (3 TD, 7 INT, 60.0 rating). That left Mike Maccagnan’s second round prize in prime position to compete for the job, at least compared to Petty.
It seemed Hackenberg was making strides in practice. In the first week of the preseason, he made some “noise” with a mistake-free, high completion-percentage performance in a highly conservative effort that yielded no points. It was progress though.
Then it fell apart. Over the last two games, Hackenberg has a 48.3 quarterback rating. The pressure has been in his face, but he has shown no ability to respond and lift the team up. Any progress he made with his mechanics against Tennessee have disappeared, as he has looked sloppy and inconsistent with his accuracy.
Seizing the opportunity against the Giants was Petty. 15 for 18, 250 yards, 13.9 yards per attempt, 3 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, plus a two point conversion.
Did he play against backups? Yes. But did he produce more points against the Giants (22) than Christian Hackenberg has his entire Jets career (16)? Yes.
Starting Josh McCown would be poor management. Six million dollars for a guy with two wins over the last three seasons isn’t smart spending, but it won’t matter at all if he sits on the bench while the team lets its young quarterbacks show what they’ve got. They can eat that money. What will matter is if they start a quarterback who has had little to no preparation or work with the starters for nearly a month prior to the game. That would be a major sign of incompetence on Bowles, the staff, and the front office.
Starting Christian Hackenberg would be setting a bad example for the team in which your name and draft status carry more weight than your performance. Yes, Hackenberg was a bigger investment than Petty was. That shouldn’t matter. You don’t play players to validate investments. You play the players who earn the right to play. That’s how you both set an example and give your team the best chance to win.
For better or worse, Bryce Petty should be the man in Orchard Park come Week 1. That is, if the Jets plan on progressing rather than justifying their investments.