By Ernie Palladino
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As things stand today, the Jets have a pair of unhappy quarterbacks.
Lucky for them, neither one of them is named Josh McCown. And the other two, Christian Hackenberg and Bryce Petty, don’t really matter.
This week’s decision to cement McCown’s starting role for this final four-game stretch was absolutely the right one. At an unlikely 5-7, with the playoffs still a mathematical possibility, the object for the rest of the season is now to win as many more games as they can. Who knows? They could shock the world and go 8-8, or even 9-7 with a sweep, and make the postseason in a year where even the Giants’ current 2-10 record would have been considered a success.
The 38-year-old played a huge part in getting them this far, so it’s only right for him to finish what he started.
Of course, that means the only way Hackenberg or Petty play is if the Broncos, Saints, Chargers or Pats go up by a couple or three touchdowns in the fourth quarter. But who cares? McCown’s play has eliminated any urgency to find out what either of those guys offer. Unlike the poor Giants, the Jets won’t enter the draft with two of the class’ top quarterbacks staring them in the face.
The Jets will have to jump too many spots and give up too much of their future to make that kind of trade. So best now to add a little more shine to the record and leave questions about McCown’s future for next season.
How McCown’s situation looks in 2018 has become the real question. The Jets have him under contract, just like they did with Ryan Fitzpatrick after he led them to a 10-6 record in 2015. Fitzpatrick went into 2016 full of hope that the previous year was just the beginning of something special.
What a story it would have made had Fitzpatrick succeeded.
Instead, splat! The Jets went 5-11 with “FitzMagic” throwing 19 fewer touchdowns (12) and he finished with his second-highest career interception total (17). Fitzpatrick also suffered injuries that deprived him of five starts.
McCown is three years older than Fitzpatrick, so the possibility of a second-season implosion increases expotentially. Eventually, all these guys wind up playing to the back of the trading card. A glance at McCown’s shows that there is absolutely no reason the journeyman should suddenly turn into Tom Brady 15 years and 10 teams into his career.
Still, he’s earned the right to go into next training camp as the starter. He’ll presumably win the job over Petty, Hackenberg, or whoever the Jets draft or pick up in free agency. Then he’ll start the season, and Bowles can stick with him until things go downhill. That’s when the backups get there shot.
But not until then.
McCown has earned that much. His steady leadership has kept an unsteady offense stable throughout the season. Mike Maccagnan got him a great target in Jermaine Kearse, and he has made prudent use of the former Seahawk.
He has turned Robby Anderson into a legitimate deep threat who could find himself in the Pro Bowl down the line — without the embarrassing lobbying he conducted after his second touchdown catch against the Panthers.
Just this week, McCown was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week for a 331-yard, three-touchdown (two rushing) performance in the win over the Chiefs.
McCown has taken care of the ball, throwing just eight interceptions against 18 touchdowns. He has made plays with his feet, making him the envy of the Social Security set.
And if Bowles indeed keeps his job after this season, he will owe McCown a huge vote of thanks.
That’s all for next season, though. It’s sufficient the coach has bestowed McCown with the rest of this season.
He earned that much.
If that means more waiting and frustration for Petty and Hackenberg, well … tough.
Please follow Ernie on Twitter at @ErniePalladino