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Woody Johnson wants to give Jets’ young QBs a chance

New York Jets owner Woody Johnson answers a

New York Jets owner Woody Johnson answers a question as he addresses the media at the team's training facility, Thursday, Jan. 5, 2017, in Florham Park, N.J. Credit: AP / Mel Evans

The Jets didn’t end up taking a quarterback in this year’s NFL Draft, but team owner Woody Johnson doesn’t seem to mind a bit. It’s better to get an answer about the quarterbacks already on the roster.

“We’ll see what we have now,” Johnson told Newsday on Tuesday at the BTIG Charity Day in Manhattan. “We didn’t test them out last year, but I think you’ll get a much better idea this year of what the young guys can do.”

The Jets (5-11) went as far as they could last year with Ryan Fitzpatrick before benching him to give 2015 fourth-round pick Bryce Petty a chance to play. Petty suffered a shoulder injury in his fourth start and was lost for the season. He had only three touchdown passes and threw seven interceptions.

Coach Todd Bowles will open up the quarterback competition in training camp, and it will either be Petty, 2016 second-round pick Christian Hackenberg or veteran Josh McCown, who signed a one-year, $6-million deal in March. Johnson won’t say which quarterback he believes will win the job but believes he’ll get a better idea of what lies ahead.

“We’ll see about both of them, Petty and Hackenberg,” he said.

Johnson said he hasn’t spoken yet with McCown, who played the last two seasons with the Browns. “He’s a great player, a great leader,” Johnson said. “He’ll be good for the whole locker room.”

Johnson also expressed support for Bowles and Mike Maccagnan, who enter their third season together as the Jets’ coach and general manager.

“I am confident in them,” Johnson said. “I think they’re the right team to do what I want to do now, which is get younger, faster and get our players from the start and not rely so much on free agency. Really build the team differently, build it through the young guys, through the draft.”

It will not necessarily be playoffs or bust in 2017 for either Bowles or Maccagnan.

“I judge it by the progress of the individual players and as a team. That’s what I look for,” Johnson said. “Are they making progress over the course of the year? Are they better at the end of the year and the middle of the year than when they started out?”

Johnson said he is committed to Maccagnan’s vision of building through the draft.

“This is the direction I want, the direction that we’re now taking,” Johnson said. “I’d say younger, faster, with coaches able to train these young guys up, getting the right guys in the locker room, making sure we have a cohesive team, building through the draft. People have talked about it, but we’re going to do it.”

Is he willing to be patient, even if it means going with younger players who may be prone to making more mistakes?

“I don’t want to use the word patient,” he said. “I’m not patient for progress. We want to have progress. If we select the right guys and have progress with those guys, then I’ll be happy.”

Looking back on last season, Johnson was clearly disappointed in the record but understood what might have been the underlying factor in the regression from a 10-6 season in 2015.

“I think it’s a point-counterpoint to the previous year [in 2015], where maybe we overachieved,” he said. “This is a good time. It’s a good point to kind of re-center the organization.”

The Jets went on a free-agency spending splurge before the 2015 season, plunking down millions for cornerbacks Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie and Buster Skrine, safety Marcus Gilchrist and guard James Carpenter. Revis and Cromartie have since been released, as has wide receiver Brandon Marshall, who was acquired in a 2015 trade with the Bears. Gilchrist, Carpenter and Skrine remain with the team.

While not commenting specifically on any of the veterans brought in, Johnson said it’s the right time to move forward with younger players.

“Free agency is not a panacea,” he said. “You’re much better off getting a guy out of college, training him up and showing him how to play the Jets’ way.”

Johnson declined to comment on speculation that the Jets continue to try and trade defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson and safety Calvin Pryor. Both were first-round picks during former general manager John Idzik’s tenure.

“I think [Maccagnan] can handle all those questions about Sheldon and any other individual player,” Johnson said.

Johnson also declined to say anything about his impending appointment as the ambassador to the United Kingdom under President Donald Trump.

Should the Jets fail to produce a winning record this season, Johnson said he may not be ready to make wholesale changes.

“As I said, I’m going to judge it by the progress of the team and the progress of the individuals and whether they’re getting better at their position,” he said. “If I see progress, I’m going to be happy.”

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