When the New York Jets signed Josh McCown as a free agent this past offseason, they knew that the journeyman wasn’t anything more than a stop-gap. Now as they play out the rest of a season that has been surprisingly better than expected, the future of the Jets and the need for a true franchise quarterback is becoming increasingly clear.
It isn’t McCown. It isn’t Bryce Petty. It also isn’t Christian Hackenberg. The answer to the Jets quarterback dilemma isn’t on their roster or in the NFL draft.
Instead, it is Kirk Cousins.
The Jets have proven this year that they are much further along in their rebuild than anticipated. They are 4-7, longshots to make the playoffs but nevertheless mathematically still alive. They haven’t been badly outplayed or blown out in any game this year as was feared and they’ve shown to have a good, young core.
A young core that needs a quarterback to elevate them to take the next step. Not a project, not a rising star. Someone who can step in right away and get this thing going the right way.
Someone like, say, Cousins.
There is young talent on this Jets roster and with a sizable war chest heading into free agency, now is the time for the organization to spend and pick up the torch last held by Joe Namath and perhaps, briefly, Chad Pennington.
Now, it is Cousins' time.
In the Washington Redskins quarterback, the Jets would be getting a top-tier passer. Put Cousins on any other team devoid of the dysfunction and lack of talent seen in Washington and he could be on a playoff contender.
He’s put up big numbers over the past three years and is a character-first type of quarterback. He is well-wired to handle the pressure cooker that is New York while being the right quarterback to lead this Jets organization back into the playoffs.
Cousins is borderline elite and he will need to be paid as such if not overpaid. But given the Jets ability to spend this offseason, they should be able to entice him with the allure of a young, rising defense. They also can invest heavily on playmakers and the offensive line, leaving the defense to develop and mature.
The Jets are not far away from being a playoff team, a bounce here or there, a bad officiating call away against the New England Patriots and in yesterday’s game from being a .500 team. In Todd Bowles, they have a level-headed coach built to last, not prone to emotional outbursts or hyperbole.
All they lack is Cousins to get them to the next step.
The Jets haven’t had an elite quarterback since Namath hung up the white cleats, the franchise having searched and drafted repeatedly in search of their next Broadway Joe. In Cousins, they would have a quarterback entering his prime who is ready to take that next step.
He would join a Jets team looking for a quarterback to take that next step with them.
While this NFL draft boasts several top signal callers, none is ready to step in and lead a team to the playoffs next year. But the Jets are closer than most people thought they would be while prognosticating during preseason. They were supposed to be winless. They were supposed to be in full-on rebuild mode heading into next spring’s NFL draft.
Instead, they are better and deeper than anticipated. Here and now, they don’t need a project quarterback to groom or develop.
Instead, in Cousins, they have someone in his prime who checks off all the boxes. A man who can finally be the team’s franchise quarterback.
A man who would be worth the paycheck. A man who can lead the Jets back into the playoffs.