Our long national nightmare is finally over.
Quarterback Josh McCown has signed a one-year deal with the Jets, putting an end to one of the most pathetic quarterback searches in recent memory.
The career journeyman, who will be 38 on opening day, brings with him a career that includes making starts for five different teams with an accumulated completion percentage below 60%, a touchdown to interception ratio that is nearly even, a sub 80 QB rating, and an overall record of 18-42 as a starter.
Tom Brady he is not.
Still, for as obviously flawed as he is – and for as much as Jets fans may not want to admit it – somebody had to start the 2017 season at quarterback for this team, and McCown, sadly, was the best option they had.
Why do I say he was their best option? Well, let’s take a quick look at the other available quarterbacks:
First, there is former Chicago Bears Jay Cutler, who as far as I can tell, is easily the best quarterback still available. He is by no means a perfect quarterback, as he is a gunslinger who makes plenty of mistakes and tends to have his issues in high pressure situations. However, his overall body of work over the past eleven seasons has been reasonably solid.
That said, aside from cost and length of contract – which could certainly have been issues – Cutler has a history of rubbing teammates the wrong way and causing locker room problems. This could be a major problem for a team not only looking to set an example for its young players, but also desperately trying to shed the image of an organization that is one step removed from a carny circus act.
And make no mistake, even without Rex Ryan, there was plenty of that element present with the Jets last season.
You had the team’s quarterback stirring up controversy with contentious contract demands, following that up with horrifically bad play, and then compounding it all with snide remarks towards the coaches who had given him far too many chances despite his struggles.
There was the star receiver nearly getting into a fist fight with a star defensive lineman. That same defensive lineman also had to be disciplined – along with another one who had just been paid a small fortune but still managed to find a way to blame the team’s medical staff for his weak performance – for blatantly disrespecting team rules and missing parts of meetings.
And of course the highest paid guy on the team – you know, the guy with the Island named after him – showed up out of shape, avoided contact like the plague, and seemed to not even be trying half the time.
Clearly, the Jets do not need more distractions or media pile-on issues surrounding them, which is why there is another fairly well-known quarterback who they were right not to pursue.
Many have derided the Jets for staying away from Colin Kaepernick, but he made no sense for the Jets.
Regardless of how you feel about the stance he took while a member of the San Francisco 49ers last season, the fact remains that it IS a distraction that would generate the exact kind of media driven circus that they are so frantically attempting to avoid.
Over at “Outkick the Coverage,” Clay Travis wrote about why teams are shying away from Kaepernick, and while there are plenty of things one could quibble with in the article, his main point – that the quarterback’s baggage is greater than the value of what he could potentially bring to the table – is correct, at least from where the Jets sit.
Sure, for a competing team that needs a high-end backup/low-end starter option, he may be worth a look. But for a bad team trying to steer clear of unnecessary off-the-field distractions The Jets have been down that road before and it did not end well.
In 2013, the team traded for Tim Tebow, who was brought in to be an all-purpose weapon and perhaps push incumbent Mark Sanchez for playing time at quarterback. Tebow was – and still is – by all accounts an exemplary human being, but the attention he drew due to his massive fan following and penchant for winding up as a talking point in sports media far outweighed any contribution he was ever going to make on the field.
And while I understand that Kaepernick is a better player than Tebow was, the same principle applies here.
Kaepernick’s play has progressively gotten worse over the past three seasons and he was ranked as the 30th best quarterback in the NFL last season by Pro Football Focus. His accuracy has continued to be a major problem, he cannot read a defense, and he’s lost a step physically following major injuries. He turns 30 later this year, and at this point, it is highly unlikely that any of the above issues will improve.
Essentially, that’s why McCown is perfect for the Jets. Contrary to popular perception, he is not a “steady hand” nor is the “guidance” he may give to Christian Hackenberg and Bryce Petty all that valuable.
After all, just how valuable can “guidance” be when it is coming from a mistake prone 38 year-old who has bounced from team to team like a rubber ball?
Fact is, McCown isn’t here to be a “bridge” quarterback or a mentor. He has come to the New York Jets to be a sacrificial lamb.
Think of him as a sparring partner for a championship level fighter whose job is essentially to push the champ a little bit but mostly just take a beating and shut his mouth. Yes, he will make the occasional nice throw downfield to a still emerging receiving unit, and they may even win a game or two by virtue of sheer luck and an easy schedule.
But his main purpose will be to show up, act professionally, say the right things to the media, and otherwise be a ghost. Basically, if the press mostly ignores the Jets in 2017, then McCown will have done his job to a tee.
If all goes well, Christian Hackenberg will be ready take the reins by mid-season. If he succeeds, great. If not, the Jets will be in prime position to draft somebody else. And Josh McCown will move on to his next payday, wherever that is.
But for now, it is worth recognizing that in a world increasingly full of delusional people and impossible expectations, the Jets seem to have fully embraced who they are and what their reality is. No more half-measures. No more band-aids. No more misguided attempts at a “competitive rebuild,” whatever the hell that means.
After six straight non-playoff seasons and a cavalcade of failed strategies, ripping the core apart and rebuilding from the ground up was the only sane option left.
There’s no guarantee it will work and it is surely going to be painful to watch. But if they want to finally fix what seems like a perpetually broken franchise at this point, it’s the only chance they’ve got.
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