FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Todd Bowles had an opportunity to quash the quarterback conversation, but his vague replies gave way to more uncertainty — and more questions.
“I was clear about every position: [No.] 1, 2, 3, 4 going in,” the Jets’ coach said Sunday after practice. “Until we make a change, there won’t be. That’s any position. When we make a decision at the end of camp, if it changes, it changes, and if it doesn’t, it doesn’t.”
Asked directly if Geno Smith will remain the No. 2, followed by Bryce Petty and rookie Christian Hackenberg, Bowles refused to give a definitive answer.
“Right now, they’re all playing and we’re trying to see who sorts out what,” he said.
Smith entered training camp as the clear backup behind starter Ryan Fitzpatrick, but after Petty threw two touchdown passes in Friday’s 22-18 loss to the Redskins, many wondered if the No. 3 quarterback had closed the gap on Smith. Bowles’ refusal to provide clarity raised eyebrows.
He said Fitzpatrick and the first-team offense will play “a pretty good amount” Saturday against the Giants, but he wouldn’t say anything definitive about the other quarterbacks. “All of them have to be up to play,” Bowles said. “We have a plan for the quarterbacks that we’re not revealing.”
When pressed on whether Smith will be the second quarterback in, Bowles repeated: “To be clear, we have a plan on who we’re going to play that we’re not going to reveal.”
Smith’s experience as an NFL starter gives him a leg up on Petty, who saw no game action as a fourth-round rookie last season. But Smith, in his fourth season, has 42 turnovers in 31 games with the Jets. On Friday night, he threw a second-quarter interception that helped set up a Redskins score.
Asked how much he’ll weigh Smith’s preseason game action against his past performances, Bowles said: “It’s a combination. It’s a progression of all the quarterbacks and all the positions. How much you’ve done in the past, what you’ve done in camp, as well as the preseason games.”
The strides Petty has made are evident both on the field and in his demeanor. There’s a noticeable confidence in his tone, a self-assuredness that’s rooted in on-field results.
And that’s why he couldn’t help but be bothered by the insinuation that his growth is due in large part to video games. The comments he made this past spring about his “night-and-day” progress since his rookie year — and the fact that it’s evident even while playing Madden — inadvertently made him a punch line. And he hasn’t forgotten it.
“It just gave a perception that if you played Madden, you can play in the NFL,” he said. “It was degrading to me and my preparation and what I’ve done the last year . . . That’s what’s so upsetting about that comment. I’ve worked really hard — the right way — to do it.”
Petty said the video game comment was “totally taken out of context,” adding with a smile: “I played Madden twice. And so, the fact that [it was made to look like] I’m learning offense through Madden is wrong.”
But he refuses to worry about the assumptions made by fans or the media. Instead, he’s focused on proving that he can be a franchise quarterback in due time. “The people that I worry about are upstairs,” he said. “I want them to understand the progress and what I’ve done — and how I’ve done it. So those are the people I care about.”
A short time earlier, Petty told reporters “it’s hard not to laugh” at how far he’s come in such a short time. And while it’s still unclear if he’ll supplant Smith for the No. 2 job or make the Jets’ final 53-man roster, he understands that he’s auditioning for his NFL livelihood.
“I think we all are,” he said. “But for right now, I’m right here, and this is where I want to be. So yeah, it’s an audition for anybody watching that tape, but that is first and foremost for the Jets because I want to be here. Each day I come out here, it’s to put on a show for them.”
Notes & quotes: Wide receiver Quincy Enunwa is “a little better” but still in the concussion protocol, Bowles said . . . Offensive lineman Breno Giacomini (back) won’t practice again this week . . . Linebacker Erin Henderson (stinger) will “probably be probable” for the Giants game, Bowles said . . . Bowles would like to get running back Matt Forte (hamstring) “a few snaps if I could,” but that depends on “if he gets better during the week.” The same goes for defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson (leg). Said Bowles: “You’ve got to see how the practice goes and how they feel on that day.” . . . Defensive end Lawrence Thomas (shoulder) is expected to return to practice next week.