By Abraham Gutierrez
There are currently only four teams with a worse record than the (3-7) New York Jets: (0-11) Cleveland Browns, (2-8) Jacksonville Jaguars, (2-8) Chicago Bears and (1-9) San Francisco 49ers. With just six games remaining on the calendar, and postseason hopes gone, Todd Bowles and his staff must shift their attention towards the future of the organization, regardless of what anyone else thinks.
First order of business is figuring out who will lead this offense. Heading into the bye, it was no secret that the starting quarterback spot would be a two-horse race between well-traveled veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick and Jets fourth-round (2015) NFL draft pick, Bryce Petty.
No rest for wicked Jets in bye
With one week in the books, not only does Bowles have more questions than answers, but it also appears that things are getting dicey in the Jets locker room. According to reports, Bowles now finds himself in a position where he either names Fitzpatrick the starter or risks of having players simply forfeit the rest of the season.
“You’d like to see young players play, but you also want to make sure they’re ready for that,” said Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan. “It’s a more complicated decision than some people realize.”
In short, there are players in the Jets locker room that believe Petty is so inferior to Fitzpatrick (at this point in their careers) that Bowles would lose credibility if he decides to start the 25-year-old Baylor product.
“You think of different aspects when you decide on making a change, especially at that position, because it affects other players on the team, too,” Maccagnan added. “If you’re trying to determine what gives you the best chance to be successful, but also if you’re looking how players develop and progress, I think the point I would simply make is you just don’t do it. You don’t just wing it. … It’s not a decision you take lightly. You also want to make sure the player … is ready to a degree to set them up for success.”
Bowles’ decision to make
In team owner Woody Johnson’s power structure, the head coach and the general manager have the same discretionary authority when it comes to these types of decisions. Nevertheless, the Jets GM has made it clear that he intends to discuss the quarterback situation with Bowles, but that ultimately the decision will come from the second-year head coach.
“We wish we could have won more games and been fighting for a playoff spot right now,” Fitzpatrick said in a recent interview. “I think that’s the biggest thing. But at this point, there’s nothing I really can change.”
After signing a one-year contract extension worth $12 million, Fitz led this team to a 1-4 start (before being benched for Geno Smith), while earning the lowest quarterback rating in the league (67.6) and leading the NFL in turnovers (13). Meanwhile, in his only start as an NFL pro, Petty completed 19 of 32 passes for 163 yards, a touchdown and a pick in the Jets’ 9-6 loss to the Los Angeles Rams.
“Based on performance and everything else, people don’t have to believe in me,” said Fitzpatrick, who turns 34-years-old on Thursday. “Basically, the point was, and still is, the reason I’ve been here as long as I have is because I have that self-belief. There are definitely people who will believe in me until the day I die, I know that. And I have that list of people. It bothers me that there’s a certain expectation for me this year from coaches, players, myself and I haven’t met that expectation. That bothers me. But I don’t think that a lack of belief [from others] bothers me.”
Who will start under center when the New York Jets come off their bye week to face Tom Brady and the New England Patriots Nov. 27 at MetLife Stadium? At this point, it’s anyone’s guess. One thing is certain, however: Bowles is in a bit of a pickle; he’s damned if he does, and damned if he doesn’t, no matter which way this goes.