NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — The Petty Plan began to take shape a few weeks ago.
New York Jets coach Todd Bowles was toeing the fine line between trying to win games and preparing for the future.
So, about two to three weeks ago, Bowles decided that if his team’s playoff hopes were over, he would turn to Bryce Petty at quarterback for the final four games and send Ryan Fitzpatrick to the sideline.
“We knew if we were out of contention and out of the running,” Bowles said during a conference call Tuesday, “in my mind and in my head, I told the coaches that we would give (Petty) the last quarter of the season to try to make progress and get better week by week.”
The Jets were mathematically eliminated from the postseason picture on Monday night, and in epic fashion while getting blown out 41-10 by the Indianapolis Colts.
Bowles announced after the loss that he was going with Petty the rest of the season . Until late Monday night, the coach had justified starting Fitzpatrick the past few games by saying he thought the veteran gave New York the best chance to win.
He was asked Tuesday if playing Petty was a shift in that philosophy.
“Just trying to win,” Bowles said, “and it’s trying to see what I have at quarterback with Bryce.”
Despite the plan, Bowles acknowledged a winning streak that would have kept the Jets in the playoff hunt would have postponed the move a bit — maybe even until the final game of the season.
“Obviously, we would have stuck with Ryan,” Bowles said. “But now that we’re not in contention, we want to get (Petty) some experience, so we’re going to play him a little more.”
Fitzpatrick, in what could have been his last game action for the Jets, was 5 of 12 for 81 yards with an interception against the Colts. He was ineffective, as was the rest of the offense, so Bowles pulled him and went with Petty in the third quarter.
Petty finished 11 of 25 for 135 yards with a touchdown to Robby Anderson and two interceptions. He made his first NFL start three weeks ago in place of an injured Fitzpatrick, and was mostly mediocre in a 9-6 loss to Los Angeles. Petty, a fourth-round draft pick out of Baylor last year, will now get a four-game audition to show whether he can be the Jets’ quarterback of the future.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for me, but I didn’t want it to be this way,” Petty said after the game. “I would much rather have us in the same situation we were in last year — on the brink of making the playoffs. What I do know is that opportunities are few and far between in this league, so you’ve got to capitalize on them any chance you get.”
Petty has shown a big arm at times, but he also can be erratic. He’s a second-year player still learning at this level, and the little details will take some time.
“Just trying to get my mind and my feet in sync,” he said. “I still think my mind is a little bit faster than my feet sometimes. I’m getting better at seeing things. Now I’ve just got to (think), now, OK, I see it, here’s the throw. You know? And go back to, this is what I do. That’ll get easier every time I get out there. I’ll get better.”
Bowles said Fitzpatrick will serve as Petty’s backup for at least the next few weeks. He added that rookie Christian Hackenberg, a second-round pick who’s generally still considered a project, likely will not see any game action this season, barring an injury to Petty.
When Bowles announced to the media after the game that Petty would be under center the rest of the season, there was some confusion over whether the quarterbacks knew — and when.
On Monday, Bowles acknowledged that he could have done a better job of communicating things to Fitzpatrick, who appeared to not know that it would be Petty’s job the last four games, regardless of the outcome Monday night.
“I didn’t talk to him — the coaches told him,” Bowles said. “I was meaning to talk to him and I got tied up with a few things. I’ll make sure we talk (Wednesday) morning.”
Those “few things” were giving his team an earful after its embarrassing performance in front of a national TV audience.
“He tried to cover for me,” Bowles said of Fitzpatrick. “Like I said, I had a lot on my mind. I got some things off my chest. It kind of went over the wrong way, definitely.”
NOTES: Bowles said “it’s possible” C Nick Mangold could be shut down for the rest of the season after aggravating an ankle injury. Mangold returned Monday night after missing four games. … After ripping his team’s effort after the game, Bowles backpedaled a bit after watching the film. “Actually, I thought the effort was a lot better,” he said, “but I thought we made some bonehead mistakes that cost us.” … Bowles on the lack of DL Sheldon Richardson’s snaps in the second half: “It was just game plan.”
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