Jets fo­cused on wins, not throw­ing young QBs into games

The Trentonian (Trenton, NJ) - - SPORTS -

NEW YORK » The Jets aren’t ready to sac­ri­fice wins now for a glimpse at an un­cer­tain fu­ture.

A day af­ter coach Todd Bowles in­sisted that Josh McCown will re­main the starter un­der cen­ter, quar­ter­backs coach Jeremy Bates re­it­er­ated that point — re­gard­less of the grow­ing sen­ti­ment out­side the fa­cil­ity that it might be time for Chris­tian Hack­en­berg or Bryce Petty to get an op­por­tu­nity.

“We’re fo­cused more on the Carolina Pan­thers than get­ting into that de­bate,” Bates said Tues­day dur­ing a con­fer­ence call. “Of course, we’ll have that con­ver­sa­tion at the end of the sea­son.

“As an or­ga­ni­za­tion, this is pro­fes­sional foot­ball. This isn’t Triple-A.”

In other words, now is not the time to send a player onto the field sim­ply to as­sess his progress and de­vel­op­ment.

At 4-6, the Jets are still in the playoff hunt as they head into their bye week, de­spite hav­ing dropped four of their past five.

When they re­turn to the prac­tice field next week, McCown will again be lead­ing the first-team of­fense as they pre­pare for Cam New­ton and the Pan­thers.

“We’re go­ing to play the best play­ers that give us the op­por­tu­nity to win at all po­si­tions,” Bates said. “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.”

But there’s no guar­an­tee, of course, that Bates, Bowles, of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor John Mor­ton or any­one else will be back to talk about the fran­chise’s fu­ture when this sea­son is over. Bowles is still coach­ing for his job, and likely needs the Jets to con­tinue be­ing com­pet­i­tive if he has a shot at re­turn­ing for the fi­nal year on his cur­rent con­tract.

While Bates said McCown is “play­ing at a high level,” the vet­eran QB is 38 and signed for just this sea­son, so he clearly isn’t the fu­ture. Both Hack­en­berg, a sec­ond-rounder out of Penn State last year, and Petty, a fourthrounder out of Bay­lor in 2015, were given a shot to over­take McCown for the job in train­ing camp. But nei­ther proved he was up for the chal­lenge.

When asked a few weeks ago whether it was time to put one of the young­sters in, Bowles replied flatly: “I looked at all of my young quar­ter­backs in the sum­mer. Josh is my quar­ter­back.”

That might have been the clear­est of all in­di­ca­tors as to where the or­ga­ni­za­tion stands on their eval­u­a­tions of Hack­en­berg and Petty.

Petty started four games last sea­son for Ryan Fitz­patrick, but had just three touch­down passes and seven in­ter­cep­tions.

Mean­while, Hack­en­berg re­mains an even big­ger ques­tion mark. A tal­ented thrower who was rated highly by gen­eral man­ager Mike Maccagnan, Hack­en­berg has been un­able to move up on the depth chart. The Jets could still po­ten­tially land a top quar­ter­back in the draft in April, but that would also spell the end of Hack­en­berg’s chances of be­ing the guy to lead the hud­dle in the fu­ture.

“He con­tin­ues to de­velop as a pro quar­ter­back, learn­ing the sys­tem, play­ing fast, and be­ing more ac­cu­rate,” Bates said. “So all those things, he’s work­ing on.”

While the two young­sters con­tinue to watch from the side­line dur­ing games and serve as back­ups dur­ing prac­tice, Bates be­lieves they are still learn­ing from a “true pro” in McCown. The 15-year vet­eran has a sin­gle­sea­son per­sonal best of 14 touch­down throws and his 69.0 per­cent com­ple­tion rate ranks third in the NFL.

“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,” Bates said. “As a young quar­ter­back, I think that’s huge to wit­ness that, be­cause you can’t have an off day. You can’t have a bad Wed­nes­day or have the phi­los­o­phy of, ‘Man, I’m go­ing to re­ally turn it loose on game day.’”

Bates said both Hack­en­berg and Petty, who take turns run­ning the scout team, have a sys­tem dur­ing prac­tice that puts an em­pha­sis on mak­ing the right de­ci­sions with each snap.

“If you throw a com­ple­tion, you stay on, and if you throw an in­com­ple­tion, you ro­tate,” Bates said. “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.

“So when their num­ber is called, they’ll be ready.”

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Jets quar­ter­back Josh McCown (15) gets tripped up by Tampa Bay Buc­ca­neers mid­dle line­backer Kwon Alexan­der (58) dur­ing Sun­day’s game.

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