Bryce Petty’s goal is simple: Make the choice as difficult as possible.
In a crowded quarterback room, surrounded by Ryan Fitzpatrick, Geno Smith and newcomer Christian Hackenberg, Petty has often wondered whether he’ll eventually be the odd man out. But Thursday night, he took the first steps toward ridding himself of anxiety and worry.
“I’m in a quarterback competition with myself every time I go out there,” Petty said, after going 7-for-14 for 93 yards in the Jets’ 17-13 preseason win over the Jaguars at MetLife Stadium. “And to put that simpler, I want to be the best quarterback I can be every day. Whether that’s at practice, watching film, that’s in a game, whatever that is, it’s kind of a competition with myself.”
And in the process, he gave the Jets a glimpse into what he’s capable of on the field: a strong arm and plenty of poise.
Of course, the Jets’ third-stringer had the benefit of playing against fellow backups by the time he entered the game in the third quarter. But there was a major key in his performance.
“One word: comfortable,” Petty said, when asked how he felt in his first game action since last year’s preseason.
So when did things start clicking for him?
“As reluctant as I am to say it, it’s probably because I stopped worrying about things and just let things happen,” the second-year quarterback said. “I think I was kind of going out there and I was trying so hard to be perfect, that it was actually kind of hindering my decision-making and how fast I was doing it. So one day, I came in there and I said I wasn’t going to worry about that anymore, just kind of started slinging it around and having fun with it, kind of going back to the reason why I play it, which is not to worry about tomorrow and play for today.”
There were a few errant and wobbly throws, but there also were bullet passes thrown with precision. Petty played the most of any Jets quarterback — 21 snaps compared with Smith’s 20 and Fitzpatrick’s 10 (rookie Hackenberg did not play). Petty’s longest throws (21, 20 and 19 yards to three different targets) were the longest completions behind Fitzpatrick’s 26- and 43-yarders to Quincy Enunwa.
“Every play call, I just knew what was going on and knew what was expected of me, so I just felt good about everything,” said Petty, the Jets’ fourth-round pick last year.
His performance was definitely a step in the right direction. But he’s under no illusions about his uncertain future with the franchise. Though the Jets see potential, they selected him knowing that he would be a project. Complicating matters for the Baylor product is that the team took Hackenberg in the second round of this year’s draft. And now there are three backup quarterbacks vying for practice reps behind Fitzpatrick and a shot to one day be the face of the franchise.
Asked if it’s counterproductive to think about his roster status, Petty said: “I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t [think about his roster spot]. But at the same time, it’s counterproductive. My goal every day coming in is to be positive and to try to be the best teammate I can be and if I’m worrying about myself and roster numbers, then I don’t know if that is happening.
“At the end of the day, whatever happens is supposed to happen and I know that I’ve become a better quarterback because of it. I’m comfortable with that.”