By Ernie Palladino
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Whether the Jets come out with a win, lose close, or get their brains beaten in this Sunday against the Patriots, one gnawing problem will remain constant.
They need a quarterback.
A real one.
Not a journeyman who hit it lucky one year. Not a kid who may or may not make it. Not a project.
So it would make perfect sense for Mike Maccagnan to go after Tony Romo after Gang Green ends yet another trek to Nowheres-ville.
If Todd Bowles came to any realization about his injured, aging roster during the bye week, it is that last year’s 10-6 record was just as much a function of low expectations, an easy schedule, and Ryan Fitzpatrick having a career year. That fact has been long-established outside the walls of the Jets’ executive offices and locker room.
For all the good Fitzpatrick did last year, a season where only the fist of a down-the-roster linebacker kept Bowles from making the supreme mistake of handing the starting job to Geno Smith, the affable quarterback has never turned a mediocre squad into a winner. As this season has illustrated, he was good as a one-year stopgap, but he’s not the kind of guy a coach can ride to the playoffs.
And now, he might not be the kind of quarterback a coach rides at all. With Bowles contemplating a permanent change to 2015 fourth-rounder Bryce Petty, the Fitzpatrick era may well be at an end. And it’s entirely possible that Petty will prove that he truly isn’t ready to take control of the offense this year.
Christian Hackenberg? This year’s second-rounder really isn’t in the conversation.
Geno? Oh, please.
The draft scene doesn’t add much encouragement, either. The Post’s draft expert, Dan Shonka, proclaimed it a down year for quarterbacks Sunday. So it’s hard to believe Maccagnan would spend what could be a top-5 pick on a passer.
If he is in the mood to package a veteran with a draft pick or two, Dallas is the place he should look. With rookie Dak Prescott commandeering a starring role with the 9-1 NFC East leaders, owner Jerry Jones will probably be entertaining trade offers for the former starter.
Romo, whose gracious step-down speech last week short-circuited a brewing quarterback controversy, is signed through 2019, so the Jets would at least control him for three years. The $19.5 million and $20.5 million he’s due the final two years after the reasonable $14 million he gets next year can always be renegotiated downward into a new, cap-friendly contract.
Even if the 36-year-old gives the Jets two good years, though, that would suffice. For a franchise that will complete its sixth straight season without a playoff berth, he’d provide a huge boost for the fan base.
Romo would come with risks, of course. He’s fragile and has missed games in each of the last four seasons. Most notable, of course, were the broken left collarbone that cost him seven games last year and the fractured vertebrae that opened the nine-game door for Prescott.
He hasn’t been all that lucky in the postseason, either. His fumbled snap on a chip-shot field goal against wildcard foe Seattle in 2006 forged his reputation as a hard-luck loser. His subsequent 1-3 record in the playoffs hasn’t helped dispel that notion, either.
But guess what? At least the Cowboys got there. For a dreary team like the Jets, getting a veteran playoff quarterback who still has life in him when healthy could turn the entire franchise around.
The early speculation has the Broncos getting him — if Jones decides to trade him at all. It wouldn’t be unlike the Cowboys’ ethereal owner to keep him as a high-priced backup.
But if Jones does entertain trade offers, Maccagnan would do well to make him a good one.
The Jets could use a guy like Romo.
Everyone else has either failed or is not yet ready to succeed.
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