The Jets have gone to great lengths over the years to try to find the next Joe Namath, with limited success, but some attempts were more palatable than others. There were some quality years with Chad Pennington, Vinny Testaverde, Ken O’Brien and even Richard Todd, and then some nightmare scenarios with Neil O’Donnell and Browning Nagle and that near-miss with Brett Favre, who was one torn biceps away from giving the Jets one of their best chances at glory.
But the predicament they find themselves in is one of the most demoralizing yet, with each alternative more disheartening than the next.
With the more viable options no longer at their disposal after free agent Mike Glennon went to the Bears and Tyrod Taylor remained with the Bills, with Brian Hoyer headed to the 49ers and Josh McCown linked to the Cowboys — and don’t even think about Tony Romo wanting to get near this team — the list of alternatives smacks of desperation.
Jay Cutler is the most prominent name now connected to the Jets, but who wants a quarterback with Favre’s arm and Jeff George’s temperament?
Cutler was released by the Bears on Thursday, and his connection to the Jets’ new quarterbacks coach, Jeremy Bates, is obvious. Bates coached Cutler in his stops in Denver and Chicago, so there is familiarity there. But Cutler has established a long track record of failed potential and hasn’t played a full 16-game season since 2010 because of an assortment of injuries. He started only five games for Chicago last year and eventually underwent shoulder surgery.
Is that who you want directing a team that has been disassembled by third-year general manager Mike Maccagnan, who shed the onerous salaries of aging veterans Darrelle Revis, Nick Mangold, Nick Folk and Breno Giacomini? The Jets are nowhere close to being a contending team, and given Cutler’s attitude problems with far more talented teams, do you want that type of corrosive influence as the face of the franchise?
Do you want Robert Griffin III to try to resurrect his career with a third team? RG3 was one of the most electrifying players in the league when he led the Redskins to the playoffs as a rookie in 2012, but he has been battered by an assortment of injuries ever since. He lost his job to the less heralded Kirk Cousins, a fourth-round pick the same year Griffin came out, and RG3 didn’t even last a full game as the Browns’ starter last year before suffering a shoulder injury. He returned for the final month of what turned into an abysmal 1-15 season that landed the Browns the No. 1 overall pick.
Cleveland pulled off a stunning trade Thursday for Houston’s Brock Osweiler, a bust last year with the Texans after signing a four-year, $72-million free-agent deal. There’s still a chance they won’t let Osweiler see the field, instead choosing to gain a second-round pick in 2018 as the real prize in the deal. You want Osweiler, who was awful after bolting the Broncos? No, you do not.
The trade may have been a precursor to a deal that would send Romo to the Texans and not the Broncos, in which case another Jets possibility likely would be eliminated. There is talk the Jets are interested in the Broncos’ 2016 starter, Trevor Siemian, who showed promise in his second season with the team. But if Romo goes to the Texans, the Broncos presumably will retain Siemian to compete with 2016 first-round pick Paxton Lynch.
Do you prefer Bryce Petty, the Jets’ 2015 fourth-round pick? He felt fortunate just to make the team last year and — in his limited time in place of Ryan Fitzpatrick — showed few signs he can be a capable starter, even if he initially showed a nice touch on the deep ball before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury.
Or do you prefer Christian Hackenberg, last year’s second-round pick, who was so raw in practice that coach Todd Bowles wouldn’t even let him see the field in a 5-11 season that essentially was over halfway through? Hackenberg is the real problem here, because Maccagnan clearly overdrafted him, leaving the Jets in a major quandary.
Had Hackenberg performed up to his draft status during his first season with the Jets by showing at least some measure of trustworthiness, the Jets could at least think about giving him the keys to the offense. But while they say he’ll be given a chance to win the starting job in training camp, the realistic outcome is that he won’t be any more ready to play next season than he was in 2016.
How desperate is the quarterback situation? It is a testament to just how limited the choices have become that one of the most practical alternatives for the 2017 season is — I’m going to say it — Geno Smith. He has four years with the Jets, and although a locker-room fight sabotaged his 2015 season and a knee injury ended his brief run in place of Fitzpatrick in 2016, he has a live arm and has at least functioned in a tough market before. And who’s to say Smith can’t show legitimate improvement if given another chance?
The start of the 2017 league year isn’t even a day old, but for the Jets, the immediate future at quarterback already looks grim.