There’s an old NFL axiom that says if a team has two quarterbacks then they really don’t have any. But in the Jets’ case, they now have three onboard, which doesn’t really break the proverb considering the options are so uninspiring.
Monday’s signing of veteran journeyman Josh McCown, 37, gives New York three signal callers, with varying degrees of experience. McCown, a 14-year veteran, joins youngsters Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg to form a not-so-accomplished triumvirate.
McCown was brought in to add bearing to the quarterbacks’ room, but he really isn’t the most inspiring option for a Jets squad starving for direction at the position, especially when teams are 2-20 with him as the starting quarterback over the past three years.
Petty and Hackenberg don’t seem like better options, though. So once again the Jets have painted themselves into a quarterback corner. McCown, who signed a fully guaranteed one-year, $6 million deal that could reach as high as $13 million with incentives, is clearly a bridge to whatever plans management has for its future at the position.
The question remains, though, what exactly are Gang Green’s future plans? Petty, a fourth-round pick in 2015, has only four career starts — all last season — and showed very little in the small sample size provided. Hackenberg, a second-round pick in 2016, showed even less, as he was essentially afforded a redshirt season while learning behind Ryan Fitzpatrick, Geno Smith and Petty.
The Jets were the only team to have four signal callers on its roster, last season, but none of the options provided the team or its ardent fanbase with much confidence. Fitzpatrick is now a free agent, with very little interest from other teams, while Smith moved on to the neighboring Giants to be a clipboard holder for Eli Manning.
Head coach Todd Bowles won’t be available for comment until next week’s NFL owners’ meetings in Phoenix, but throughout the free agency quarterback search, he’s maintained that the two holdovers, along with whatever veteran they bring in, will have a chance to prove themselves worthy of being the starter. But if Jets fans read the tea leaves, this has all the makings of a duplication of last season’s 5-11 campaign — and a quasi tank job — because instead of the erratic Fitzpatrick at the helm, the Jets will likely trot out the inconsistent McCown.
Like Fitzpatrick, McCown is a valued veteran presence and well-liked in every locker room he’s been in, but like Fitzpatrick, McCown has a penchant for streaky play and performances that keep both teams in the ball game. Both veterans have been just good enough to remain on an active NFL roster, but they’ve also been just bad enough to not improve a team and send them into high-draft pick mode.
Adding a guy like McCown also shows just how little faith Bowles and company have for the two neophytes, despite their lofty draft statuses. Seeing how the quarterback search unfolded, it seemed like the Jets’ search for a signal caller went a bit haywire once fellow veteran journeyman Brian Hoyer went to the San Francisco 49ers and Jay Cutler likely priced himself out of New York’s plans.
Bowles’s recent claims that the Jets will still remain competitive and are “always trying to win games” following the team’s purging of veterans like Darrelle Revis, Nick Mangold and Brandon Marshall don’t seem to mesh with the recent transactions.
McCown will likely be the opening-day starter, regardless of what the coach says about an open competition, because logic suggests that if Bowles is really sincere about trying to win every game, he can’t trot out either Petty or Hackenberg just yet. Despite McCown’s recent struggles as the starter in Cleveland and Tampa Bay, he’s simply too experienced and intelligent to sit behind either newbie — especially considering the Jets receiving corps is very green. They’ll need to lean on the veteran, who already has an ally in the coaching room, new quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates. The duo worked together during the 2012 season in Chicago.
That may not be the inspiring message Jets fans want to hear, though, especially considering McCown didn’t throw a single pass that season while the Bears went 10-6 with Cutler — the guy Gang Green thought was a worse option at the position.
Gang Green notes:
- Now that McCown is off the market, the available list features guys who started a combined 46 games last year: Colin Kaepernick, Robert Griffin III, Case Keenum, Cutler and Fitzpatrick.
- The Jets have wasted three valuable picks on quarterbacks over the last four drafts, and 2018 may not be any different. The “Scam for Sam” campaign already seems in full effect. And if this upcoming season is anything like last season, Gang Green will put themselves in prime position to select USC’s Sam Darnold.