Just when Jets fans thought the handling of the team’s quarterback situation couldn’t possibly be worthy of any further scrutiny, it appears head coach Todd Bowles’ sudden change of direction in handling his three signal callers has divided fans on the issue once again.
After veteran Josh McCown received the lions-share of reps through the first dozen or so practices in Florham Park, a drastic turn of events has taken place, and now fans and media types are scratching their heads.
The major change started when Bowles announced before the start of last weeks tilt with the Lions that Christian Hackenberg would play the first half, with Bryce Petty playing the second half. This, after a week in which Bowles said that McCown would see extended reps after playing just one series a week earlier against the Titans.
In the practices that have followed, McCown has been a spectator, throwing just one pass in a couple of days ago, and even that was as a member of the scout team. So what could Bowles possibly doing, and what impact could it have on the Jets and his future with the team? Let’s take a look at a few possibilities.
McCown has been ordained:
Like it or not, it’s possible that McCown is already the team’s unofficial starter no matter how Petty and Hack perform. Bowles is using the remainder of camp to get an extended look at Hackenberg and Petty.
Brilliant Because: Hack and Petty were both tabbed as multi-year developmental prospects out of college. They both need every rep they can get at this point ,and that’s what Bowles’ current approach is doing.
Baffling Because: Even if the goal is to get Hack and Petty maximum reps, putting McCown on ice with the season approaching will be seen as reckless and irresponsible if he plays poorly out of the gate. There’s no reason the Jets couldn’t ratchet up the tempo at practice and give McCown a series or two with the starters. It wouldn’t be much, but it’d be better than nothing.
Challenging the kids:
Bowles and the Jets know what they have in McCown. He’s a steady veteran who has had some shining moments but an injury at some point is likely, and he’s not going to be much better than average at this point. If the Jets can hand the job to McCown, but then tell Hack and Petty that either one of them can steal the starting job with a strong showing over the final weeks of camp.
Brilliant because: This scenario is closest to what many Jets fans have been calling for since the day McCown was signed. “Play the kids” has been the mantra for countless fans, and it’s entirely possible that this is what Bowles is trying to do. If one of them steps up, they win the job. If Hack or Petty can’t do enough to convince Bowles to sit McCown, the reality of the situation is that neither of them deserve it.
Baffling because: If Bowles knew in the back of his mind that this approach was even a possibility, why not give Petty more reps earlier in camp? He has outplayed Hackenberg in practice and on game days, but is only now being given a fair shot.
Conspiracy theories are usually nothing more than a way to write garbage headlines to get clicks. However, the shift in Bowles’ approach has been so dramatic, that you can’t help but wonder if he’s been instructed from the folks upstairs to change his approach. NFL teams do sometimes listen to their fan base, especially when it’s becoming an angry mob and tickets aren’t selling. Hackenberg or Petty as the starter would mean plenty of unknowns for Jets fans, but the one thing they would know is that it isn’t McCown.
Brilliant because: Popular decision or not, a head coach doing what he’s told to help save his job wouldn’t really fall under “brilliant” or “baffling:
Baffling because: See above
Bowles is Baffled:
Clearly the least desirable of all the scenarios, is Bowles not committed to any one approach because he’s not sure which approach to take? His detractors will jump at the chance to say so, while his supporters will point to the fact that Bowles has said all along that the reps would even out.
Brilliant because: Well, being baffled wouldn’t be brilliant, would it?
Baffling because: It’s right there in the name, but in all seriousness, if the Jets have an NFL head coach who’s flying by the seat of his pants in regards to the handling of his quarterback situation with the season just a couple of weeks away, that’s just no good for anyone.
Now with their week three dress rehearsal just a couple of days away, Bowles and company are keeping everyone guessing, refusing to name a starter against the Giants, and having not taken any reps, you can’t rule out the possibility of Bowles sitting McCown this week, and then again during the final pre-season game in which starters rarely see the field.
If Bowles’ plan is to start McCown in week one without giving him more than a handful of reps before the season kicks off, it would be hard to call his approach anything but baffling, and if the season goes off the rails in the opening weeks, it could be his approach during this camp that spells the beginning of the end for Bowles.