Florham Park, NJ – The Jets will do this to you, in fact the Jets usually do this to you but this is some next level Jets-ing. This Jets teams has a ton of question marks but over the past two days of watching practice reporters have been focused on one singular question, what the %&$# are the Jets doing at quarterback?
After signing veteran Josh McCown to join Christian Hackenberg and Bryce Petty, Todd Bowles said the Jets would have an open three-way quarterback competition. Then McCown proceeded to get the vast majority of the first-team reps in mini-camp and the first few weeks of training camp (with Hackenberg getting some and Petty getting far less). McCown played one drive in the first preseason game, leading to the only touchdown in two preseason games, before coming out. All of that would be fine if, as we all assumed all along, McCown was going to be the starting quarterback. That’s typically how teams go about it when they know who the starter will be, it is not how it’s done in a true quarterback competition.
Then on Saturday Bowles decided to sit McCown for the entire game and just play Hackenberg and Petty. A little weird, but okay. Get the young guys more in-game reps, see what they can do and next week McCown will be leading the offense again as they prepare for the dress rehearsal against the Giants, right? Apparently not. Yesterday McCown got barely any reps, he resorted to running wind sprints during practice. Today was mostly the same, minus the wind sprints. So what exactly are the Jets doing here?
Yesterday Bowles said they were just “evening the reps out. He got a lot of reps early, so the other guys are getting a lot of reps now. McCown knows what he’s doing and he can play, so we’re trying to give the other guys some experience and some reps.”
That would be fine, and would explain not playing McCown against the Lions, except for the fact that the game against the Giants this week is the most important preseason game. It’s the game where the starters usually play the entire first half and a series or two in the second half.
If McCown is going to be the starter then he should be getting most of the reps to play in the dress rehearsal against the Giants, but instead he’s watching Hackenberg and Petty get most of reps. Which would lead us to think us to think that maybe Bowles will repeat last week and just play Hackenberg and Petty again to give them more of a look or just more reps. But if they do that and end up opening the season with McCown as the starter then Bowles would either have to play McCown in Week Four of the preseason, something very few regular season starters ever do, or start the season with a quarterback that played only one drive the entire preseason. Mind you this is Josh McCown, not Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady, and not only is it Josh McCown but it’s Josh McCown in a new offensive system surrounded by young and inexperienced receivers. Bowles could still give Hackenberg and Petty the bulk of the reps this week and start McCown but then he’s not giving McCown the best chance to succeed against the Giants.
Maybe Bowles thinks McCown is ready to start the season, but maybe he got word from upstairs that he should be giving more reps to the younger guys. Yesterday he told reporters, “Well, he (McCown) got reps the whole first half of camp (and) you all were complaining he got too many. Now you are all complaining he gets too little.”
But no one was actual complaining, they were just trying to read into how the reps were being divided. As reporters we often read too much into things that we shouldn’t, but that’s our job. Observe, report and try to give the best read of what we see. If there really has been an open competition this entire time we should’ve seen the reps divided evenly throughout camp. You certainly don’t expect to see the leading candidate for the starting job get less reps as the third preseason game approaches unless of course he’s been outplayed but that has not happened. If the front office did tell Bowles to start giving the young kids more reps they did so at a really weird time, the offensive line didn’t help Hackenberg out last week but he also looked clearly overwhelmed and not ready to start.
All of this directly undercuts what would be Bowles’ answer to why he would name McCown the starter, if indeed he does name him the starter. It will be hard to sell the “he gives us the best chance to win” line if you’re taking reps away from him towards the end of camp and giving him a little bit less of a chance to work with the first-team unit. And if the Jets decide to go with Hackenberg, that’s fine. No one would really blame them, but they definitely won’t be able to sell that he won the job and “gives them the best chance to win.”
The most logical explanation is the Jets are doing what they do best, riding the fence between two bad options. They’re trying to play both sides even though neither side is very good. If they ultimately do decide to go with Hackenberg then why not just give him more reps at the beginning of training camp? If they go with McCown, that’s fine too but now they’re making it even tougher for him when things were already stacked against him.
The Jets, stuck between only bad options are trying to play the middle and not realizing that this strategy only makes all options even worse. They’ve done it with coaches and general managers working off different timelines and now they’re doing it with quarterbacks. What’s more Jets than that?
Chris Nimbley is the editor-in-chief of JetsInsider.com. He can be reached on Twitter (@cnimbley), or via email (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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