By Ernie Palladino
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Truth be told, aside from a couple of horrid mistakes, like his backbreaker pick in the final 47 seconds against the Dolphins two weeks ago, Josh McCown hasn’t done all that bad a job for the Jets.
He’s had a steady hand as far as leadership goes. The players like him. He might even be a head coach some day.
But franchise quarterback?
No. The Jets are still looking for that, and the 38-year-old McCown is never going to be the answer.
Sam Darnold might be. So might Kirk Cousins. But they’re not here, and the Jets haven’t had a real franchise guy since Joe Namath slipped on his white shoes and led them to Super Bowl III glory.
Kenny O’Brien took a shot between 1984 and ‘92, but only experienced three winning seasons.
Vinny Testaverde came here as a veteran for Bill Parcells and looked like he might have the stuff, but got hurt.
Chad Pennington? Mark Sanchez? Neither had the longevity or super success common among the real franchise-makers.
But this coming offseason could be the year the long line of futility ends. And it has everything to do with the Patriots shipping off Jimmy Garoppolo to San Francisco a day before Tuesday’s trade deadline.
The 49ers no longer need to draft a quarterback, which is good because at 0-8 and sinking, they’d be right in line to take a Darnold, Josh Rosen, or Josh Allen in April’s quarterback-rich first round. That moves the 3-5 Jets up a notch in the pecking order, assuming they continue to lose.
Adding the virtual certainty that the hopeless, 0-8 Browns’ incompetent front office will mess up the No. 1 pick on a lesser position, and neither the 1-6 Giants nor the 2-5 Bucs would be in the market for a quarterback means the Jets could end up in prime position to get one of those top three arms. Sacrificing the rest of the season with Christian Hackenberg, the 2016 second-round pick who has engendered such distrust that he has yet to take a snap in anger, would just about clinch that possibility.
But if the Jets decide not to suck for Sam or the Joshes and let McCown try to squeeze out another couple of wins, they can always try the veteran route with Cousins.
The Redskins’ veteran signal-caller becomes a free agent at season’s end. The 49ers might have become a potential landing spot for him, but they didn’t get Tom Brady’s caddy so he could carry yet another established guy’s bag. So that eliminates one potential landing spot.
Cousins wouldn’t come cheap, though. General manager Mike Maccagnan would have to use up a good chunk of the projected $63.5 million of 2018 salary cap space to devote to the long-term contract Cousins desires.
They’ll have other company, too. The Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger might retire. The Bills could get rid of Tyrod Taylor. The Jaguars might finally recognize Blake Bortles as no better than backup material. Even the Browns, who have guessed wrong on almost every quarterback since Bernie Kosar, could get into the bidding.
And that only happens if Washington has indeed burned its bridge to Cousins with its refusal to give him money and security.
Big “if” right there. A nice, juicy deal would certainly salve whatever hurt feelings Cousins carries for the Redskins’ front office.
Still, Cousins might look nice in Jets green. He has proven efficiency, having thrown just four interceptions against 13 touchdowns this season. He’s not afraid to pull it down and run, and he has 10 rushing touchdowns the past three years.
And at 29, he’s smack in the middle of his prime.
If Garoppolo works out in San Francisco, he at least eliminates the 49ers as an open-market competitor.
McCown never was meant for the future. Hackenberg and Bryce Petty don’t look to have much of one in front of them.
That special player lies outside the organization right now, either in college or the free agent market. Landing him all depends on how well Maccagnan and head coach Todd Bowles interpret the tea leaves the Patriots flung around when they shipped Garoppolo westward for a 2018 second-round pick.
One thing is for certain: They had better be good readers. Another offseason like this won’t come around for a long time.
Please follow Ernie on Twitter at @ErniePalladino