Despite having four quarterbacks on their current roster, the Jets need a franchise QB. Thursday’s NFL Draft is likely to provide the next candidate.
As it stands, Josh McCown is the projected starter for next season, but coach Todd Bowles said he would start a rookie quarterback in 2018 if necessary.
“It depends on the progress,” Bowles said. “I’m not afraid to play young players at any position. You go in and compete and as you gain confidence in the system, understand what you’re doing and go through training camp.”
The Jets have started rookie quarterbacks in the past. Geno Smith went 8-8 in his rookie season of 2013 and Mark Sanchez was 8-7 in 2009. The success of Jets rookie quarterbacks has been moderate, though. Even Hall of Famer Joe Namath went 3-5-1 in 1965, but he was selected to the Pro Bowl that season.
Letting a rookie quarterback wait a season, which seems to be the likely case with the Jets, might be the best scenario.
“Whether it’s a d-lineman, a corner, a safety, a linebacker, a wide receiver,” Bowles said, “at the end of training camp, if you’re a rookie and you are where we need you to be, you play. If not, you don’t.”
Like every draft, this year’s crop of quarterbacks has talent and warts, making picking one difficult. So whom will the Jets select? Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield has been linked to them, but UCLA’s Josh Rosen might be the better fit and play immediately.
“I think Mike Maccagnan and the Jets need a quarterback that can step in and play fairly quickly, and I think Mayfield and Rosen are both able to do that,” NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said. “From a Jets perspective, will they embrace the swagger of Mayfield, which is pretty significant, and he might play really well and be successful, obviously, on Broadway. Rosen, again for me, it’s more the durability issue than anything else. So if Maccagnan stepped up at 3 and took Mayfield, it wouldn’t surprise me at all.”
Last season, the Texans started Tom Savage in Week 1 before he was benched at halftime of that game for Deshaun Watson, a rookie from Clemson whom numerous teams passed on in the draft, including the Jets. Watson was taken 12th overall.
Watson maintained the starting job, going 3-3 before suffering a season-ending knee injury. The record-setting rookie elevated the Texans in the AFC South as they were 3-4 before Watson’s injury. After he went down, the Texans lost eight of their last nine games.
“I have great confidence in Deshaun Watson,” Texans coach Bill O’Brien said at the NFL owners’ meetings. “I have great confidence in the type of person that he is, the type of work ethic he has. I’ve said it time and time again, I feel very lucky to have the opportunity to coach him. I love the kid.”
In the last three seasons, NFL teams drafted 10 quarterbacks in the first two rounds. Only Christian Hackenberg of the Jets — the 51st overall pick in the 2016 draft — has yet to play in a regular-season game.
Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota — the first and second picks, respectively, in the 2015 draft — faced off in Week 1 of their rookie years. Carson Wentz (No. 2 in 2016) and DeShone Kizer (52nd overall in 2017) also were Week 1 starters their rookie year.
Jared Goff, the No. 1 overall pick by the Rams in 2016, didn’t start Week 1. He did play seven games, however, losing all of them. Goff had a breakout second year, going 11-4 for the NFC West champion Rams last season.
The Broncos’ Paxton Lynch (26th overall in 2016) has four starts under his belt. The Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes (10th overall in 2017) made his first start in the regular-season finale and the Bears’ Mitch Trubisky (No. 2 overall in 2017) started 12 games last season. Mahomes and Trubisky are projected starters in 2018.
Kizer’s time with the Browns was short. After going 0-15, he was traded to the Packers.