FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Circle Monday, Jets fans.
That’s when the big mystery will be over, when coach Todd Bowles expects to reveal which of his quarterbacks will start against the Bills in Week 1 of the regular season.
Though almost every observer seems convinced that Bowles is going to hand the job to Josh McCown, the coach and offensive coordinator John Morton have insisted that Christian Hackenberg and Bryce Petty have a legitimate shot at being the starter.
“I have my own thoughts, but it’s a coaching decision and we’ll discuss it after [Saturday’s game against the Giants] and come up with our starter,” Bowles told reporters Monday after a walk-through practice. “We’ll do it [next] Monday after watching the film.”
McCown, 38, has received the majority of the first-team reps throughout training camp. Even though Bowles had said he needed some work, he did not play in Saturday night’s preseason game against the Lions.
McCown was brought in with the intention of being a bridge to the Jets’ next young quarterback. He has had only nine snaps in the preseason. In his only preseason touchdown drive, on the first possession against the Titans on Aug. 12, he led the Jets on a 78-yard march into the end zone. They haven’t scored a touchdown since.
McCown said Monday that he wanted to start against the Lions but understood why the team went with Hackenberg, 22.
“We all talked and I understood the situation,” McCown said. “Obviously, you’re a competitor and you want to play every time you get a chance. But I also know the situation and I understand that we have two young guys that these preseason games can be valuable for because they get some time and opportunity to play.”
McCown, however, clearly expects to hear his name called when Bowles does the big reveal Monday.
“Obviously, I’ll be very disappointed if I’m not the guy,” McCown said. “But at the same time, we’ll support whatever the coach decides is best for the team.”
Hackenberg, a second-round draft pick out of Penn State in 2016, has been the only one to really challenge McCown. Saturday’s 16-6 loss to the Lions was his first career start, and it was a pretty tough outing.
Hackenberg played the entire first half, completing 2 of 6 passes for 14 yards. He was sacked twice, fumbled once and did not lead the Jets to any points. Four of his five drives were three-and-outs. The Jets averaged 2.2 yards per play with him in the game, netting 43 yards total and minus-3 passing.
Hackenberg’s roughest moment came on a brutal sack by Cornelius Washington on the first series. Hackenberg, who got terrible protection in the game, refused to blame his linemen.
“We could have checked to something else,” he said. “Probably maxed it up. Got some protection. It was a good learning experience. I thought they were bringing something, and they adjusted and did a good job bringing what I thought they weren’t going to bring.”
Hackenberg sounds as if he is beginning to accept that he won’t get the starter’s job this season.
“It’s his decision, ultimately,” Hackenberg said of Bowles. “My job is to come in every day and learn as much as I can and go out and practice. That’s my focus from here on out, moving forward — today, tomorrow, next week, next month.”
Or maybe next year.