The one thing that would benefit Bryce Petty the most is the one thing the Jets hadn’t been willing to give him: more game action.
But with the Jets trailing the Colts 31-3 midway through the third quarter Monday night, Petty got his chance, replacing Ryan Fitzpatrick. On the Jets’ first possession of the second half, he produced one first down, completing 2 of 6 passes for 23 yards, before the Jets had to punt.
On Petty’s second possession, he threw an interception that Mike Adams returned to the Jets’ 6-yard line, setting up a touchdown that put the Colts up 41-3.
On his third possession, he got the Jets into the end zone on a 40-yard pass to Robby Anderson, making the score 41-10 with 11:19 left in the game. The drive covered 75 yards in 11 plays.
Fitzpatrick had done nothing in the first half to make Todd Bowles want to leave him in the game. He completed only 5 of 12 for 81 yards with an interception.
Fans got a glimpse of Petty in Week 10 when the second-year quarterback made his first NFL start against the Rams, but that opportunity wasn’t a matter of faith. It was out of necessity. With Fitzpatrick hindered by a sprained left knee, Bowles turned to Petty, but he did little to inspire more confidence among the coaches.
“He did some good things,” offensive coordinator Chan Gailey said of Petty’s performance in the Jets’ 9-6 loss to the Rams on Nov. 13. He completed 19 of 32 passes for 163 yards with a touchdown and an interception and had a 70.2 rating. “He needs all of the work he can get. Just like every young player needs all of the work they can get. It helps to play in games.”
Yet that’s what Bowles wasn’t interested in seeing — at least not until Monday night, when the game, like the season, was gone.
This seemed like a lost season for the Jets long before they suited up against the Colts. The lack of tailgaters hours before kickoff at MetLife Stadium was another sad reminder of the state of the franchise — and another strong message from a frustrated fan base.
With a 3-8 record and an erratic Fitzpatrick as Bowles’ continued quarterback of choice, the Jets had made it clear that they’re not ready to focus on the future just yet. But that’s the one thing fans care about — turning the page on a dismal season.
However, in a recent interview with Newsday’s Bob Glauber, Bowles said a 3-10 record would be more of an appropriate time to turn to Petty.
“If you get to 3-10 or something like that, you can say it’s lost,” Bowles said after announcing that Fitzpatrick would be his starter against New England. The Jets lost last week, 22-17, and Fitzpatrick’s fourth-quarter fumble sealed the defeat.
“It’s not lost. We’re in ballgames,” Bowles added. “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.”
As long as Bowles remains committed to trying to win with a more experienced quarterback, Petty will remain a bench-warmer (unless Fitzpatrick gets hurt). It’s a role the 2015 fourth-round pick has had to get used to during the past season and a half. After being buried behind Fitzpatrick and Geno Smith last year, Petty entered training camp as an unknown alongside rookie Christian Hackenberg.
Although there are plenty of questions about Hackenberg’s long-term development into an NFL starter, his immediate future with the organization is set. The same, however, can’t be said about Petty. It’s unclear whether the Jets view him as a project with starting potential or just a perennial backup.
“We learned some things that we felt were his strong suits and some things that we felt like he needed to work on. You’re going to ask me what, and I’m not going to say,” Gailey said of Petty’s play against the Rams, adding that the former Baylor star is “fine” playing under center. “Every time somebody plays, you evaluate them and you learn something about them, and you go from there to try to help them become better.”