Josh McCown had a cast on his left hand and Bryce Petty’s shoulder in his right, filling his unofficial role as player/coach by counseling the Jets’ new starting quarterback.
This was in the visiting locker room at the Superdome late Sunday afternoon after Petty and the Jets lost to the Saints, 31-19, in their first game since McCown broke his hand.
What did McCown say? First, he made sure Petty was healthy. Then he went into confidence-boosting mode.
“He was just keeping me positive,” Petty said, “ ‘Hey, man, that’s why there’s next week. You know, we’re not going to miss those [throws] again.’ ”
It was a nice scene, and a nice sentiment, and Todd Bowles confirmed that there will be a next start for Petty, at home against the Chargers.
But there was something bittersweet about the whole thing, too, because it now officially is impossible to look at the Jets’ quarterback situation and think anything other than a complete overhaul is afoot. Neither McCown nor Petty, the pair of Texans commiserating on Sunday, is the long-term answer. Nor, presumably, is backup Christian Hackenberg, who did not play against the Saints and will not start against the Chargers.
None of this is breaking news, of course. But it was driven home upon watching Petty get his chance at last after McCown exceeded expectations for 13 games at age 38, keeping the others on the sideline.
Was Petty awful in going 19-for-39 for 179 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions? Not necessarily, even with that boneheaded play when he caught his own tipped pass and illegally threw the ball again.
There were times when he showed flashes of his talent, making plays under duress — including a 13-yard scramble — and finding Elijah McGuire for a 38-yard gain, a rare deep shot on a mostly conservative day.
He might well belong in the NFL. But he has not shown enough to be considered starting material. And neither, apparently, has young Hackenberg, given that Petty’s mediocre outing was not enough to give the 2016 second-round pick a sniff at a long-awaited start.
Bowles was even less enthusiastic than his usual unenthusiastic self when asked about Petty’s performance. “There are some plays he’d like to have back, obviously,” he said. “A little high on some balls, a little low on some others. But poise-wise he was into the game. He tried to execute the game plan. I thought it was a good experience for him.”
What about missed chances in the red zone that resulted in settling for short field goals?
“He just didn’t make any plays; plays that we needed to make to win the game, he didn’t make,” Bowles said. “He will get better at that.”
Will he? It is theoretically possible. Petty argued that some of his problems with mechanics and footwork might resolve themselves with consistent playing time. That includes having lineman Cameron Jordan alone bat down four of his passes. Four!
“The more time I get out there and the more times I see it, the better I’m going to get,” he said. Again, possible. But the Jets cannot count on that.
Petty said he did not take the opportunity to show what he could do lightly, but he tried to think beyond his own interests.
“This game had nothing to do with that,” he said. “There was no thought in the back of my mind of, man, this is a chance for me to show anything. It’s just all about those guys in the locker room. They played their butt off all year.”
Then he mentioned “15” — McCown’s number — chief among those he wanted to win for.
As McCown led Bowles’ spunky squad through some big victories and tough losses early in the season, fans still wondered if there might be a glimmer of future hope in Petty and / or Hackenberg.
Now we have seen one of them and might never see the other. Next!
Bryce Petty’s numbers in his first start of the season:
Avg. yds. per att. 4.6
Long gain 38
QB rating 49.0