Jets arrive at QB decision: It’s McCown
Veteran gets job but didn’t get preseason reps
The New York Jets’ long and unconventional quarterback competition is over.
Veteran Josh McCown will be the Jets’ Week 1 starter, coach Todd Bowles said Aug. 28. The decision is hardly a surprise: McCown has been the favorite to win the job since the Jets signed him in March.
“I came here to play,” McCown said. “And obviously as a competitor, I was excited (to be named the starter).”
Bowles said he picked the 15year veteran over Christian Hackenberg and Bryce Petty, because McCown gives the Jets the best chance to win.
“He had the best grasp of the offense right now,” Bowles said of McCown. “The other two got significantly better, but he still had the best grasp of the offense right now.”
Bowles had yet to decide on a backup and said he likely wouldn’t make a decision until just before the Sept. 10 season opener at the Buffalo Bills.
The Jets’ quarterback competition was a long, strange ride that began soon after the club signed McCown when Bowles declared it would be an open competition.
The open competition appeared rigged for McCown from the get-go. He got the vast majority of the reps throughout the spring, and in the early weeks of training camp he was still doing most the work with the starters.
But once preseason games started, things got a little weird.
Bowles certainly made it an open competition, giving Hackenberg and Petty all of the reps in the second and third preseason games.
It was almost as if the Jets were looking for a reason to give Hackenberg the starting job when they allowed him to play all of the first half with the starters against the Detroit Lions and New York Giants. But Hackenberg struggled in Detroit, where he failed to move the ball. And things got worse at MetLife Stadium, where he threw two pick-sixes during an Aug. 26 loss to the Giants.
Bowles declined to call Hackenberg’s play a disappointment, even though the 2016 secondround pick is not ready to play a down in a real game.
“I have faith that he’s getting better,” Bowles said. “And if the opportunity presents to where he gets to prove himself again, I’m sure he’ll step up and get better each week.”
Petty played well in the second half against Detroit and dazzled against the Giants before leaving with a knee injury — it was later diagnosed as a sprained medial collateral ligament — but Petty said he would push to play Aug. 31 against the Philadelphia Eagles.
All of Petty’s game reps were with the Jets’ second team, but Bowles said Petty made meaningful progress.
“He’s had a legit improvement all of training camp,” Bowles said. “It wasn’t just in the games. You see it in practice and his maturity and the way the game’s slowing down for him. So it didn’t matter who was out there.”
But in the end, McCown won by default. He was unspectacular but consistent during training camp.
In his one drive this preseason, against the Tennessee Titans on Aug. 12, he led the Jets downfield for a touchdown.
As it turns out, all of those reps for Hackenberg and Petty came at a cost. In the last two weeks, McCown hasn’t taken a snap in a preseason game and has barely worked with the starters.
But McCown and Bowles say it’s OK if McCown doesn’t play again until the regular-season opener.
“He gets a lot of practice time,” Bowles said. “So I’m not worried about that.”
There’s a chance that McCown could play vs. the Eagles, even though teams don’t typically play starters in the preseason finale.
“Everybody’s up to play,” Bowles said. “And they’ve all been (notified) that they’re up to play.”
Vasquez writes for The (Bergen County, N.J.) Record, part of the USA TODAY Network.
Josh McCown throws a pass against the Titans on Aug. 12 in his only preseason outing to date.