It wasn’t popular, New York Jets head coach Todd Bowles going with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick over Bryce Petty as his starter for this weekend. But as difficult as this was for the team’s fans, it was the right call for right now.
The right call for right now in Petty’s development as well.
The Jets are 3-7, a disappointing record but a team still mathematically alive for the playoffs. And with the arch-enemy New England Patriots this weekend, it is Fitzpatrick who gives the Jets the best shot moving into at least this game. Petty has potential and promise yes, but the Jets are still, albeit on shaky ground, in the hunt for the playoffs and they must play for that.
No matter how slim the chance, the Jets must go for the playoffs here and now. After that becomes an impossibility, then they can focus on life under center beyond Fitzpatrick.
Consider that Petty is still relatively raw, in the midst of his transition from a trigger-happy Baylor offense that really didn’t have him ready to play in the NFL when he was drafted a season ago. Now with a year under his belt he is more polished but he still has just 21 passes this year and didn’t look like a world beater. He couldn’t beat a Los Angeles Rams team that scored just nine points a couple of weeks ago and now Jets fans want to throw him out against the Patriots.
Talk about a horrible way to build and develop a young quarterback. It is a recipe for disaster.
Petty is still learning, still growing. He has his detractors but he also has promise. His ball placement is good and his mobility is better than advertised, especially throwing on the run. His pocket presence needs some calming and he needs to make further gains in reading defenses. But he’s gotten better than training camp last year and he has promise.
Promise that shouldn’t be dashed so soon. Promise that can be stolen if his development isn’t handled the right way.
The time to start Petty will come this year when the Jets inevitably crash and burn and are eliminated from the playoffs. But to put on his shoulders the expectations of the locker room to take them into the postseason for the first time since 2010 is too much. Petty needs to walk into a situation where he can play and grow to ready him for a possible role next season. Start him this week with the season on the line and it sets him up for disaster.
He’s a young quarterback, far from being a sure-thing as a starter. Throw him out there in Week 12 with his teammates still shooting for the playoffs and it is a bad move on many levels. The kind of move that could ruin the kid.
If being pressed into service too soon doesn’t sound like Geno Smith or Mark Sanchez then history is likely to repeat itself. This is a franchise that is hell bent on throwing their young quarterbacks to the wolves and ruining them. Better as Bowles is doing and put Petty into a larger role when the expectations are lower and he can focus on development, not winning. That time likely is coming very soon but it isn’t right now.
From the outside looking in, it is easy to say that Petty should get the start as he (theoretically) is better than Fitzpatrick right now, who has had an abysmal season for the Jets. But to get him in right now is to lose sight of where Petty is in his growth and development. To rush him along again too soon, too fast can see his confidence shaken, his development stunted. When this season stops being about 2016, then the time is right for the promising Petty.
But the Jets aren’t there yet and Petty isn’t ready to lead a franchise into the playoffs, not yet. Maybe next week he’ll be ready to prove that he can lead this Jets team into 2017.
That just might be a week away but it isn’t today. Next week maybe.
But not this Sunday.