With the Giants’ playoff hopes having been extinguished long ago and the Jets all but officially out of the postseason hunt after Sunday’s no-show in Denver, the common theme among fans of both teams is virtually identical: Let’s get a look at the young quarterbacks.
Giants fans are anxious to see third-round rookie Davis Webb. And with Josh McCown’s terrific season over because of a broken hand that will require surgery, the calls grow louder to see 2016 second-round pick Christian Hackenberg.
So what will Steve Spagnuolo and Todd Bowles do?
They will not commit to their untested young quarterbacks, even though only three games remain and both teams are playing only for pride.
Which tells you this: The answers are hiding in plain sight.
Spagnuolo has named Eli Manning his starter against the Eagles on Sunday and has given every indication that Webb’s practice reps will be similar to what they’ve been the entire season. So the rookie out of California will get few, if any, snaps and will continue his apprenticeship, mostly by watching and learning from Manning and Geno Smith.
Spagnuolo’s head admittedly is spinning as he navigates the adjustment period of running the defense to running the entire team. He made it sound as if Manning will start the rest of the way. When asked if he is sticking with him, Spagnuolo said Monday, “Absolutely. Yeah, that’s a pretty safe assessment.”
Spagnuolo acknowledged that he’s still not well versed in the nuances of the Giants’ offense, and coordinator Mike Sullivan and quarterbacks coach Frank Cignetti may very well recommend that Webb suit up for the first time. But even before Ben McAdoo was fired last week, he didn’t recommend that Webb’s practice schedule change when it was decided that the Giants would get a look at what life would be like after Manning.
McAdoo’s eyes told him Webb wasn’t ready. There’s no shame in that, because not all quarterbacks develop at the same rate. So if a coach doesn’t believe a young passer could function adequately in a game, he is under no obligation to play him.
The Bills’ Sean McDermott miscalculated fourth-round rookie Nathan Peterman’s readiness and started him last month against the Chargers. Peterman threw five interceptions in the first half and had to be replaced by Tyrod Taylor, who never should have been benched.
Is it OK to give Webb some spot duty just to get him acclimated to the speed of the NFL game? Sure. But you also have to trust that the coaches are seeing enough in practice to know whether a quarterback is close to being ready, and that hasn’t happened with Webb.
Same situation with the Jets.
Hackenberg didn’t get a whiff of game action last year in what amounted to a redshirt freshman NFL season. He was woefully overmatched while with the starters in the 2017 preseason. He wasn’t ready then and he’s not ready now.
Petty showed an improved grasp of offensive coordinator John Morton’s West Coast system as the preseason progressed, and the fact that Bowles said immediately after Sunday’s game that Petty now is his No. 1 quarterback tells you that the coaches simply don’t believe Hackenberg can run the offense with any reliability.
He undoubtedly has an NFL-caliber arm but is overmatched by NFL defenses and might never become a serviceable player. It will be difficult enough for Bryce Petty to function Sunday at the Superdome against the vastly improved Saints team. Asking Hackenberg to handle that would be like throwing a kid into the deep end before he’s learned to swim.
Coaches know when it’s time, and Spagnuolo and Bowles are telling you that time is not now for Webb and Hackenberg.