FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Bryce Petty does not consider himself a gambler.
This may come as a surprise to white-knuckled Jets fans who were clutching the edge of their seats Sunday as the second-year quarterback made some risky throws that rallied the team to a 23-17 overtime win over the 49ers.
“I don’t like to use the word gamble,” Petty said about his scrambling style. “That’s something I’ve done since high school — I don’t like giving up on plays.”
Petty’s most daring play was a risky throw in overtime to set up Bilal Powell’s touchdown run. Facing pressure, Petty rolled to his left before throwing across his body to Robby Anderson, who made a leaping catch for a 26-yard gain. What was offensive coordinator Chan Gailey thinking when he saw Petty release that pass?
“No, no, no,” Gailey said with a laugh Wednesday. “Then [it turned out] he had a great play, and you get your call sheet ready for the next one.”
Todd Bowles elevated Petty, a fourth-round pick out of Baylor last year, to starting quarterback for the final four games of the season, pushing Ryan Fitzpatrick to the sideline. While it’s clear that, despite earning his first NFL victory, Petty is still a work in progress, there is a lot Bowles likes about him.
“I like his mindset,” Bowles said. “He’s got to play smarter, but I like his mindset.”
Bowles said you have to tread carefully when dealing with a quarterback who is willing to take a few risks.
“You have to coach him. Obviously, they are dangerous plays, and when they’re turnovers, they’re not very good,” Bowles said. “And some quarterbacks, you have to make some risky throws and you have to let the guy play it and tailor it from there. But you don’t want it to happen all the time. Sometimes you have a feel and you have to make those plays and trust your receivers; sometimes you have to pull back.
“It’s a fine line. You don’t want to see it every week because you know it’s going to come back and bite you in the butt. You want to see some more normal reads going to it. But the plays he made the other night ended up benefiting him.”
Gailey agrees that the Jets don’t want Petty to be too cautious.
“Do you take away a guy’s natural feel for the game and the playmaking ability that a guy has? You don’t want to take that away — the aggressiveness and the, ‘Hey, we’re going to make a play here,’ by making him too conservative either. There’s a fine line you walk. You just try to get him to understand and make good decisions out there. You play in percentages.”
Against San Francisco, Petty went 23-for-35 for 257 yards and an interception. He also was sacked six times by a team not known for its pass rush. Petty’s indecisiveness in the pocket is one thing the Jets need him to work on, and he should be tested Saturday night when the Jets play Miami. Dolphins end Cameron Wake is 10th in the NFL with 9.5 sacks.
Petty said part of the problem is that he doesn’t trust his initial read of the defense.
“I think I was trying to confirm too much,” he said. “Seeing looks and then trying to make sure it was what I saw. Instead of just seeing it or trusting it . . . Those sacks were my fault. I have to get rid of the ball. Especially in this league, guys are too good at pass rushing. It’s such a negative play when you take a sack. I’ve got to get better at that. Hopefully, better this week in those scenarios. Trust what I see and play.”