After several months of gripping action, the Jets’ so-called quarterback competition came to a predictable and anticlimactic conclusion Monday in Florham Park.
Josh McCown will be the starter Week 1 in Buffalo, Todd Bowles announced at his news conference after practice. The 38-year-old signal-caller beat out Christian Hackenberg and Bryce Petty for the job.
Bowles said he had not yet settled on a backup.
“Overall, he gives us the best chance to win right now,” the Jets coach said of McCown.
Throughout training camp, Bowles maintained his QB battle was a true three-man competition. He doubled down on that notion Monday, saying McCown did not have the upper hand heading into the summer.
But McCown is entering his 15th season and is well-versed in the West Coast offense, OC John Morton’s system of choice. And ultimately, that knowledge proved vital in the coaching staff’s final decision.
“Josh brings experience, poise, leadership, confidence,” quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates said Monday. “I know that he’s a great leader. I know that he knows this offense inside and out, and he knows protections very well. He understands the run game, and he’s going to put us in the best position to win. He understand how to win the game. There’s a formula as far as taking care of the football, managing third downs, managing the game, and we believe in him.”
McCown, though, is 2-20 as a starter over the past three seasons, during which he’s compiled a 79.3 passer rating.
He’s no savior. But that isn’t affecting the journeyman’s expectations.
“There’s a standard of play that I want to achieve,” McCown said. “I’m looking forward to playing the best ball that I’ve ever played, and that’s my mindset.”
Yet the question remains: Did the coaching staff put McCown in the best position to succeed?
He will be forced to take the field Sept. 10 at the Bills after logging a minuscule amount of playing time this preseason. In total, he was under center for seven snaps in preseason games, all during one drive against the Titans. Granted, it ended in a touchdown. But he didn’t play at all against the Lions or Giants.
Bowles said it’s possible McCown could play Thursday in the preseason finale against the Eagles. The same goes for Hackenberg and Petty, who suffered a Grade 1 MCL sprain in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s loss to the Giants.
But McCown is now the starter. And he’ll be working with the most inexperienced receiving group in the NFL. It’s fair to wonder if more playing for McCown would have translated to better chemistry with the rest of the offense, including a line that could feature new starters at three different positions.
Bowles defended his QB plan Monday.
“I’ve seen Josh play,” he said. “I just wanted to see if the other ones would go ahead and step up and take the spot.”
That didn’t happen, obviously.
Hackenberg was ostensibly given every opportunity to do so. He started against the Lions and Giants, playing the first half of both games. He was largely unimpressive, though, especially against Big Blue, when he threw two pick sixes and looked miles away from being ready to start in the NFL.
“He got better mentally, and he got better in some things to learn from, so it wasn’t disappointing,” Bowles said of Hackenberg’s summer. “It was just a learning experience.”
When asked directly if he still has faith Hackenberg can be a starter in the NFL, Bowles deflected.
“I have faith that he’s getting better,” Bowles said. “If the opportunity presents itself to where he gets to prove himself again, I’m sure he’ll step up.”
Hackenberg, for what it’s worth, is staying upbeat after Bowles’ decision.
The 2016 second-round pick stated explicitly that he’s significantly more ready to start a game at this time than he was at the same time last season.
“It’s about experience and it’s about seeing things and going through it,” Hackenberg said. “It’s baby steps, and I’m not saying it’s a total 180 and whatever. But I feel like just having that experience, it won’t be my first time (starting), and I’m confident in that.”