By Ernie Palladino
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It wasn’t long ago that quarterbacks enjoyed some leeway in their development.
Two, even three years of starting experience were afforded to them before a team pulled the plug and started over again. Even today, the NFL has seen teams stick with promising talent as they experience a variety of setbacks — losses, turnovers, injuries.
After all, how long did the Rams keep an injury- and mistake-prone Sam Bradford? Four years and 49 starts before they dumped him on the Eagles last season.
At the risk of comparing the financial and emotional investment of the top pick of the 2010 draft to a fourth-round quarterback like Bryce Petty, the very concept of quick-hooking Petty next season illustrates the Jets’ impatience with their quarterback situation. Not that the Rams had it all figured out. Before relocating, they could easily have been considered the Jets of the Midwest. But at least they gave Bradford enough time for a solid evaluation.
The same may not be afforded to Petty, and that’s a shame. But an understandable shame. The Jets are a mess, have been a mess, and as long as they keep missing on quarterbacks and head coaches, they will continue as a mess. Now, with Petty installed and Christian Hackenberg in waiting, they’re caught between patience and knee-jerk evaluations. The question is whether four starts at the end of a lost season are enough to determine if the Jets have their quarterback of the future.
It’s not, of course. Quarterbacks take time to develop. Eli Manning needed the better part of two seasons before he started looking like a capable quarterback. His brother, Peyton, threw a whopping 28 interceptions as a rookie.
But Petty and Hackenberg, who has yet to win himself a gameday uniform, could wind up on the short end of the evaluation stick if recent reports of the Jets’ interest in North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky are true. What further defines the team’s impatience is that the junior thrower hasn’t even declared for the 2017 draft yet.
Petty’s predicament is all the franchise’s fault, of course. Between ill-fated former general manager John Idzik and current GM Mike Maccagnan, they haven’t gotten that position right in three attempts in the last four drafts, despite spending two second-round picks (Geno Smith in 2013 and Hackenberg this year) and a fourth-rounder (Petty in 2015).
Having assured themselves of a fifth nonwinning season in the last six, impatience has obviously run high in the executive offices. As a result, Petty gets a short audition when he really needs a full season behind the throttle. And the judgment on Hackenberg and his slow development may already have been handed down without so much as a single in-season snap.
Not good. But perhaps that’s unavoidable for a franchise verging on panic.
The Jets have to commit, if not to Petty next year then to whichever quarterback they pluck out of the college ranks. They must make up their mind that either Petty or the new kid gets at least a couple of full-time seasons to prove himself. Smith received as much before he became toxic.
Either way, the Jets can’t keep the revolving quarterback door spinning. With each miss, they set themselves back immeasurably. And they now know through the Ryan Fitzpatrick experience that the veteran market provides only temporary relief.
They must settle on a young guy and develop him. Four years would be ideal. Two is more realistic in the current environment.
Anything is better than four games.
Follow Ernie on Twitter at @ErniePalladino