By Ernie Palladino
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Now that the Jets have finished their preseason schedule, we can take an objective look at what the end of their regular season might look like.
From this chair, it’s not as clear-cut as one might think.
Although Thursday’s 16-10 victory over the Eagles did little to change the perception that Todd Bowles is coaching a team destined for a top-two draft position, his growing legion of detractors shouldn’t get comfortable with the idea that he’ll go down with his fast-sinking ship.
He might just survive a 1-15 disaster.
Certainly, that’s exactly where they might end up, especially if Josh McCown takes many more hits like the one linebacker Joe Walker laid on him 7:47 into the first quarter Thursday night. But even if Christian Hackenberg or Bryce Petty get to stay on the bench for five, six, seven games to continue their tutelage from the 38-year-old McCown, it’s obvious that the Jets have little to no offensive talent outside of running backs Matt Forte and Bilal Powell.
Unless they plan on riding their outstanding defensive front and solid linebackers and defensive backs to a pack of 6-0 wins, there just won’t be a lot of marks in the victory column.
Which is exactly why Bowles could come out of this potential Titanic of a season with dry feet.
In a moment of uncharacteristic fairness, the executives (i.e. general manager Mike Maccagnan) who orchestrated the whole offseason purge of folks like Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker, and Nick Mangold might recognize that even Vince Lombardi himself couldn’t win with the surviving crew. Coaches need horses, all of them. When a team sends their guy into a stable as empty as the Jets’ offense is right now, well, no good can come of it.
With one more year remaining on Bowles’ contract, they may want to give the coach one more chance with a real roster that could be headed by either USC’s Sam Darnold or UCLA’s Josh Rosen.
Of course, throwing a rookie in there would present its own challenges for 2018, not to mention Bowles’ lame-duck status. And then there’s the question of rebuilding an offensive front that currently looks like the gravest danger to McCown’s health.
Thankfully for Bowles and everyone else involved, McCown sat out just one play before he finished up a two-series evening. In case anyone is counting, McCown had just three preseason series to ready himself for the Sept. 10 opener in Buffalo. Bowles devoted the balance of the preseason to determining whether Hackenberg could start instead of McCown.
With that answer a resoundingly definitive “NO!” the only question that remained involved the primary backup spot. But whether that goes to Hackenberg or Petty is really immaterial. Given the overall state of the offense and the fact that neither of the younger ones appear to have the gift of miracles, McCown remains the Jets’ best hope.
He started the preseason that way. He ended it that way. But best doesn’t equate to great.
McCown finished Thursday evening at an efficient but unspectacular 6-of-8 for 57 yards. He didn’t get them into the end zone, though Hackenberg did when he found tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins in the second quarter.
Now McCown gets to lead a no-name offense against real starters playing for real wins. How Bowles handles the mess will go far in determining whether he comes back for a final season. It may come down to development of the younger talent who may be around after they “Suck for Sam” or “for Josh.”
It all depends on how deep the front office conscience runs. Maccagnan created this disaster, not Bowles.
In the end, the coach may not have to shoulder the entire blame.
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