The Jets are hoping they’ve found their quarterback whisperer in Jeremy Bates.
They hired the former Chicago Bears assistant to help mold their two young quarterbacks, Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg. And if Bates is as good as advertised, all hope may not be lost when it comes to Hackenberg developing into an NFL starter.
After a redshirt rookie season, the former Penn State quarterback is eager to show he’s taken the necessary steps toward becoming the eventual face of the franchise. But new offensive coordinator John Morton said, “It’s too early to tell right now, football-wise” where Hackenberg is.
Morton did, however, detail what he expects from Hackenberg, Petty and veteran quarterback Josh McCown.
“Take care of the ball. I think that’s important — and move the chains — I think that’s important. That’s the No. 1 thing,” Morton said. “That’s what I preached [Tuesday] morning, first time going against the defense.
“I showed them cut-ups of how to take care of the ball, and that’s the quarterback making the right decisions. That’s the No. 1 thing. Like I said earlier, we win the turnover battle, we have a better chance of getting in the playoffs.”
Though McCown, 37, is expected to be their Week 1 starter, the hope internally is that Hackenberg eventually will take the reins of the offense. And the Jets have tabbed Bates to help with Hackenberg’s much-needed maturation.
“I think he is a great, great quarterback coach,” Morton said. “I was with him at USC, we had a great relationship and we come from the same type of background with Coach [Jon] Gruden, and I know with him — I trust him to take over that room. He’s called plays before, and he’s a good soundboard for me, and he’s just a great detailed coach, and that’s what I love about him.”
Morton trusts Bates so much that he plans to call plays from the booth, not on the sideline. Why?
“Because I have Jeremy Bates and I trust him to look at the quarterback,” Morton said. “He’s been down there before, and I’ve been up there my whole career. I feel comfortable up there. If I didn’t have Jeremy, I’d be down on the field. Now you can do that — there are a couple of coaches in the league, offensive coordinators that have been upstairs calling plays, so I’m glad that can happen.”
Though Hackenberg will be graded in the classroom, tangible proof of the quarterback’s development won’t be visible until this summer. Asked what he hopes to see from the youngster, coach Todd Bowles said: “Just make strides from last year. Obviously he’s going to get a lot of reps, and we’re going to get to see him come out of his shell a little bit.
“He didn’t get a lot of reps last year, he gets a lot of reps this year, and see how he handles it going forward. Mentally how he handles things, when things come to summer camp and things come in preseason, so hopefully he makes a step forward.”
For now, Hackenberg remains a mystery to fans. But Bowles believes his quarterbacks, and his offense, are in good hands with Bates and Morton.
“They’re grinders, obviously,” Bowles said. “They’re going to teach everybody the same, and there are little things and nuances that they do — without going into detail — that I really like, how they approach the game, how they approach the quarterbacks, so whoever comes out of that bunch, I am pretty sure that they’ll learn the most they can from those guys going forward.”