Jets ar­rive at QB de­ci­sion: It’s McCown

Vet­eran gets job but didn’t get pre­sea­son reps

USA TODAY Sports Weekly - - NFC WEST - Andy Vasquez @andy_­vasquez USA TO­DAY Sports

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.

BRAD PEN­NER, USA TO­DAY SPORTS

Josh McCown throws a pass against the Ti­tans on Aug. 12 in his only pre­sea­son out­ing to date.

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