The New York Jets suffered their seventh loss in nine games against the New Orleans Saints. It is hard to be distraught about it considering the team’s current situation. They are clearly overmatched to compete in games like this and they hung tough for most of the afternoon, after embarrassing themselves the week before against Denver. The rookie safeties played well, some guy named Xavier Cooper looked like twice the player of Muhammad Wilkerson, rookies Chad Hansen and Elijah McGuire made plays and the offensive line held up well. Yet ultimately the game served as a crippling reminder of how much the Jets have failed at the game’s most important position, quarterback, in recent years.
Through eight games and five starts, Bryce Petty is completing 53% of his passes with a 5.5 YPA, 4 TDs and 9 INTs and a QB Rating of 56.0. Stats do not always tell the whole story but with Petty they match the eye test. He is not capable of being a starting NFL quarterback and it is debatable if he is even capable of being a NFL backup. Petty will be 27 years old next season and is still an inaccurate quarterback, saddled with poor footwork and limited pocket awareness. Players generally don’t change, especially when it comes to highly inaccurate quarterbacks.The Jets have been playing confusing, low stakes poker at the quarterback position under Mike Maccagnan. In year one, Maccagnan planned to keep the status quo with Geno Smith under center and acquired Ryan Fitzpatrick for a late round pick to be his backup, while taking Petty in the fourth round to be a development player (even though he was already 24). Thanks to a locker room incident, a stocked up room receiver room and a cupcake schedule, Fitzpatrick had a career year and dragged another year and 12 million dollars out of the Jets. In his second draft, Maccagnan took another mid round quarterback, although with a higher investment by taking Christian Hackenberg in the second. Similar to Petty, the talking point was that he was a development player who would be mentored by Fitzpatrick and the coaching staff into eventually becoming a contributor. This past year, the Jets did a Fitzpatrick-Lite deal by bringing in Josh McCown for 1 year and 6 million dollars. He would carry on the torch of mentoring, originally lit by Fitzpatrick.
This “plan” was always flawed and haphazardly executed. The Jets kept Geno Smith as their backup to Fitzpatrick in 2016, relegating Petty to a third stringer and Hackenberg to the rarely seen fourth stringer. There is only so many reps in practice and preseason games for four quarterbacks. The Jets also fired the entire offensive coaching staff who scouted Hackenberg and who would allegedly “fix” him after only one year with him and two years with Petty. Fitzpatrick disastrous 2016 provided no tangible improvement to the young quarterbacks and even McCown’s better than expected 2017 hasn’t cured their problems.
It is a worn narrative that sounds good on paper: this old quarterback will mentor and hold the fort until our young quarterback is ready. In practicality, McCown and Fitzpatrick have zero track records of successfully “developing” any young quarterbacks, mostly because it isn’t their job to. Either you can play in the NFL or you can’t, college tape, NFL preseason tape and in Petty’s case, NFL regular season game tape, demonstrate that the Jets young quarterbacks cannot play at this level. This leaves the Jets in a situation where their entire quarterback room needs to be rebuilt for 2018. Unless you are incredibly lucky, it isn’t going to be rebuilt through signing low cost 30+ year olds and compiling mid round quarterbacks with severe accuracy issues.
The Jets have an interesting roster infrastructure on the fringes. They are good enough at safety, guard and receiver to win but this regime hasn’t solved any of the big problems yet (quarterback, pass rush, cornerback). Right now they are serving a meal filled with condiments and side dishes, without any meat at the heart of it.–
Photo Credit: NewYorkJets.com