Petty, Hack sit be­cause ‘this isn’t Triple-A’

New York Daily News - - SPORTS - BY DANIEL POP­PER

Jets quar­ter­backs coach Jeremy Bates is pleased with the de­vel­op­ment he’s seen from Bryce Petty and Chris­tian Hack­en­berg this sea­son.

At the same time, he’s aware of the re­al­ity of the team’s sit­u­a­tion. Todd Bowles and the rest of the Jets coaches must win games — or at bare min­i­mum stay com­pet­i­tive — if they want to keep their jobs be­yond this sea­son. And as such, Bates, Bowles and of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor John Mor­ton can’t af­ford to move on from 38-year-old Josh McCown.

They can’t shift their eyes to the fran­chise’s fu­ture when their fu­tures at One Jets Drive are far from guar­an­teed. “Of course we’ll have that con­ver­sa­tion (on the fu­ture) at the end of the sea­son,” Bates said Tues­day on a con­fer­ence call. “But as an or­ga­ni­za­tion, this is pro­fes­sional foot­ball. This isn’t Triple-A. And we’re go­ing to play the best play­ers that give us the op­por­tu­nity to win, in all po­si­tions, and that’s our phi­los­o­phy. Josh is our starter, he gives us the op­por­tu­nity to win on Sun­day, and that’s what we’re fo­cused on.”

Bates ef­fec­tively mim­icked the sen­ti­ment voiced by Bowles on Mon­day. In a con­fer­ence call, the head coach said he’s “not com­ing up with a sce­nario right now” where Hack­en­berg or Petty would see game ac­tion this sea­son. Bar­ring an in­jury to McCown, the two young­sters will be forced to grow on the prac­tice field and in the meet­ing room.

Petty, 26, and Hack­en­berg, 22, switch off run­ning the Jets’ scout team of­fense. The duo has a de­vel­oped a sys­tem to keep things com­pet­i­tive.

“They’re not just throw­ing the ball up there,” Bates said. “If you throw a com­ple­tion, you stay on. If you throw an in­com­ple­tion, you ro­tate. They know the im­por­tance of the game. They know the im­por­tance of their po­si­tion. And I think they’re both work­ing their tail off to put them­selves in the po­si­tion (that) when their num­ber is called, they’ll be ready.”

Still, there is grow­ing con­cern sur­round­ing Hack­en­berg, who the Jets spent a sec­ond round pick on in 2016. He’s been ac­tive for just one game this sea­son — Week 1 at the Bills, when Petty was re­cov­er­ing from a sprained knee. And this off­sea­son, the Jets must make a de­ci­sion on whether to trade up and take a quar­ter­back in the draft. Be­fore that, they have to come to a fi­nal con­clu­sion on Hack­en­berg’s po­ten­tial. “He con­tin­ues to de­velop as a pro quar­ter­back, learn­ing the sys­tem, play­ing fast, and be­ing more ac­cu­rate,” Bates said of the for­mer Penn State sig­nal­caller. “So all those things, he’s work­ing on.”

The whole sit­u­a­tion be­comes even murkier when you con­sider the dif­fi­culty in eval­u­at­ing young quar­ter­backs dur­ing the sea­son when they’re not start­ing. Reps are de­creased sub­stan­tially, as com­pared to train­ing camp. And the coaches, of course, are more fo­cused on the game plan and weekly prepa­ra­tion than on how any one player is de­vel­op­ing.

But part of the rea­son Bates is en­cour­aged is be­cause Petty and Hack­en­berg are learn­ing from and ob­serv­ing McCown, “a true pro” who is im­part­ing im­por­tant wis­dom on a daily ba­sis.

“When you watch Josh prac­tice, he goes out there and he’s on it, on the pro­tec­tions, 100 per­cent on the run game, 100 per­cent (on ev­ery­thing),” Bates said. “As a young quar­ter­back, I think that’s huge to wit­ness that, be­cause you can’t have a day off, you can’t have a bad Wed­nes­day or have the phi­los­o­phy of, ‘Man, I’m go­ing to re­ally turn it loose of game day.’ …(That) has re­ally helped those two guys, I think, un­der­stand the im­por­tance of it.”

McCown is en­joy­ing a ca­reer sea­son. In Sun­day’s loss to the Bucs, the jour­ney­man threw his 14th touch­down pass and be­came the old­est player in NFL his­tory to set a ca­reer high in TD passes. He’s third in the league in com­ple­tion per­cent­age.

“This is what I ex­pect out of Josh, and I think he ex­pects the same thing,” Bates said. “We’ll con­tinue to watch him grow.”

USA TODAY

QB peck­ing order of Josh McCown (from l.), Bryce Petty and Chris­tian Hack­en­berg holds.

GETTY

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