FLORHAM PARK, N.J.
The logic is undeniable, given the circumstances: At 3-7 and with little hope of reaching the playoffs, it would make perfect sense for the Jets to ditch Ryan Fitzpatrick as the quarterback and get a sense of what Bryce Petty can do for the rest of the season.
It’s what most Jets fans believe. It’s what I believe.
But the man making the decision begs to differ, so it’s back to Fitzpatrick and back to the bench for Petty.
For Todd Bowles, it comes down to three things: 1. He does not believe the season is irretrievably lost. 2. Perhaps most importantly, Bowles is not in the business of promoting players unless they have earned it. 3. He has seen enough of Petty to know his time has not yet arrived.
A few minutes after Bowles announced Monday that Fitzpatrick will return to the starting lineup after recovering from a mild knee sprain, Bowles made it very clear to me that he has not given up hope on the season — and that he doesn’t care a lick about the overwhelming sentiment from outside that Petty should play.
“We’re 3-7, but that doesn’t mean the season is lost,” he said. “If you get to 3-10 or something like that, you can say it’s lost. At 3-7, it’s not lost. We’re in ballgames. We lost, 9-6, [to the Rams on Nov. 13], we’re in it in a game we’ve got to win, so everybody’s playing hard. Our spirit is good and our locker room is fine. Everybody knows they earn their own keep, and they play on their own merits.”
Keep that last sentence in mind when trying to understand Bowles’ reasoning. It’s basically saying he won’t use a player he believes is not the best at his position, even when playoff possibilities are remote.
In his news conference, he said: “You don’t give away jobs. You’ve got to take the job.”
Had Petty played better against the Rams, that might have affected his thinking.
“If you throw 10 touchdowns, you have to take a look at it,” Bowles said. Petty threw only one, so despite the clear public sentiment to see more of him, there was not enough evidence to make a more permanent change.
Why not care about fan reaction?
“Why should I?” Bowles said. “I’ve played and coached for a long time. When you win, you get praise. When you lose, you get the blame. That’s part of it. It’s not about not giving a crap. I understand where it’s coming from. Everybody wants to win. We’re in the building, we want to win. It comes with the territory. You let it roll off your back when you’re winning and you’ve got to let it roll off your back when you’re losing. You can’t be a different person.”
Bowles insists job security — or lack thereof — had nothing to do with his decision. “Not at all,” he said. “We know the lifespan of a coach and a player when we get into this business.”
And he’s not worried about an insurrection in the locker room if he were to play Petty.
“Absolutely not,” he said. “Coaches coach and players play. Our locker room is fine. We play and we support each other whoever is out there.”
So why not see what Petty can do to get a better read on whether he can be the guy next season, especially with the likelihood that Fitzpatrick won’t be back?
“No, that’s for outside people. I don’t worry about that,” he said. “I only worry about winning ballgames. I don’t ever let a player dictate who I play. We’re all professional here. We have a job to do. So that never crossed my mind.”
It’s obvious that Bowles doesn’t have a conviction about Petty. At least not yet.
“Fitz gives us the best option,” he said. “Petty’s time will come, so we’ll be patient with it.”
Will that time come with the Jets?
“I’m not a prophet,” he said.
“Obviously, you have to take a job and win a job,” he said. “But if two guys are on the same level and one of them isn’t playing up to par, you want to give the other one a shot.”
No one can argue that Fitzpatrick has played up to par, but the fact that Bowles is sticking with him is a clear indication that he doesn’t think Petty is “on the same level” as Fitzpatrick. He did think Geno Smith was, and that’s why he benched Fitzpatrick before the Ravens game. Smith didn’t even last a half before suffering a season-ending knee injury.
Consider, too, that Bowles might be concerned that Petty wouldn’t be able to handle Bill Belichick’s complicated defensive schemes in Sunday’s game against the Patriots. Not that Fitzpatrick won’t struggle, but a first-year starter against the smartest coach in NFL history couldn’t have been an enticing option.
The bottom line for Bowles: “Our season’s not lost, and we’re still in it. I look at this as playing the best people we have available to help us win.”
Until that changes, Petty sits.
Too bad. With no realistic chance of salvaging the season, the better plan would be to play Petty the rest of the way rather than sticking with a guy who is not part of the answer moving forward.