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Todd Bowles: No front-runner in Jets’ quarterback derby

From left, Jets quarterbacks Bryce Petty, Christian Hackenberg

From left, Jets quarterbacks Bryce Petty, Christian Hackenberg and Josh McCown prepare to take snaps during minicamp at Atlantic Health Training Center in Florham Park, New Jersey on June 14, 2017. Photo Credit: for Newsday / Richard Harbus

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — School may be out, but Todd Bowles isn’t any closer to making a decision on his starting quarterback.

After 13 practices — 10 OTAs and three mandatory minicamp sessions — the Jets coach said the competition is alive and well among Josh McCown, Christian Hackenberg and Bryce Petty. And no one has distinguished himself.

“Not at this time. I don’t look at anybody as the front-runner,” said Bowles, who this week likened his young team to a “kindergarten” class and 37-year-old McCown as its teacher. “We’ll wait until training camp and we’ll sort it out there.”

It’s widely assumed that McCown will end up the Week 1 starter because of his experience. But anything can happen between now and July 28, the day players report back to the facility.

Hackenberg said he isn’t concerned about where he’ll fall on the depth chart by then. Nor, he added, is he focused on the ongoing criticism of his game.

“The only people whose opinions I really care about are the people I’m involved with every day and know exactly what’s going on in this building as an offense and as a team. My quarterback coach specifically,” the 2016 second-round pick said. “If those guys say something to me, I’m going to take that to heart because they know exactly what’s going on, every detail of it. That’s how I look at it.”

Like several young Jets quarterbacks before him, Hackenberg’s every move has been documented and every one of his throws dissected. Any errant pass, whether during an individual drill or an 11-on-11 period, is cause for hysteria — such as a recent sideline toss during an OTA session that bounced off a receiver’s hand, skirted the grass and hit a reporter in the face.

“I don’t pay attention to it,” Hackenberg said of the critiques from fans and some members of the media. “You guys have a job to do, and I understand that and also have a job to do.

“Ultimately, I have to continue to trust in myself, trust in the situation I’m in and continue to get better and continue to grow. That’s my goal and that’s all I try to do. I’m a low-key guy. I really don’t see much, but that’s what I’m trying to do, and whatever it is, I can’t control it.”

He’s impressed his new quarterbacks coach, Jeremy Bates.

“I think he’s real accurate,” Bates said this week. “I think he’s throwing the ball well. He’s throwing it on time. Part of accuracy is knowing where to go with the ball, and each day, he plays faster. He gets in a rhythm. And I think everyone in the building is excited to see where he’s going. I think he’s accurate.”

Asked what he expects his role to be come training camp, Hackenberg said: “I think that’s a question for Coach Bowles. I’m just going to come in and prepare as well as I can for my opportunities.”

His focus during minicamp, Hackenberg said, was “to come in and take advantage of my reps and learn as much as I could in the meeting room . . . and just try to continue to build on that.”

And that suits his coach just fine.

“Hack got to play and learn a lot more,’’ Bowles said. “From a confidence standpoint, he has picked up quite a bit. He’s got some timing down as well, and got a good feel for the offense.

“I expect, when we come back for training camp, for him to just let loose and throw the ball without thinking.”

New York Sports