By Steve Silverman
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Josh McCown is merely just a placeholder for the New York Jets.
He is not a long-term answer at the quarterback position, and while he may be a good guy and a positive presence in the locker room, McCown is not the kind of quarterback who is going to rally the Jets from a double-digit deficit in the fourth quarter against a winning team.
Don’t count on him doing it against a .500 or losing team, either. At his best, McCown is an even-keel leader who can hit short- and medium-range passes and play a decent game when he has the support of a running game and a productive defense.
Does that sound like the Jets?
Head coach Todd Bowles spoke about his quarterback situation at the owners’ meetings in Phoenix on Tuesday, and said there will be an “open competition” in training camp between McCown, Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg.
However, the key for the Jets is that they have the No. 6 pick in the draft and should have their pick of the top quarterbacks available. The top of the draft is pointing to defense at this point, so it would be advisable for New York to strongly consider a signal-caller like DeShaun Watson or Mitchell Trubisky, instead of the collection of mediocrity that is currently on its roster.
McCown gets straight C-plus grades when it comes to arm strength, quick release, maneuverability and overall athleticism. He can read defenses fairly well, but how will his 37-year-old body react when he gets pounded into the turf on a regular basis?
If the Jets can’t protect McCown, the team will have to turn to Petty or Hackenberg. That would not be a good situation.
Though Petty seems to understand the position well enough, he is simply too limited in his physical skills to get the job done as anything more than a fill-in.
The former Baylor star didn’t exactly inspire anyone last season, completing 75 of 133 passes for 809 yards, with three touchdowns and seven interceptions. Petty is an impressive 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds, but there’s nothing about his game that stamps him as anything but ordinary.
The Jets may still want to categorize Hackenberg as a legitimate prospect, and that designation will probably last until the second or third practice this summer.
He was supposed to be one of the more physically gifted quarterbacks in the nation while at Penn State, but he never seized his opportunity and demonstrated enough improvement to turn his potential into consistent production.
Quarterbacks who don’t improve rapidly at one point or another should not be counted on to lead at the professional level. It’s not enough for the 6-4, 223-pound Hackenberg to look the part. He lacks all the key attributes that winning QBs need.
Hackenberg is simply not an accurate thrower, and that’s going to get him beat in the NFL every time. Some college quarterbacks can get away with that to a degree because their receivers break into the open by five yards or more, but in the league that pays a lack of accuracy is a killer.
He is a poor decision maker and his ability to handle pressure is not even an issue. Even in practice, Hackenberg has not shown he can rise to the moment. And while all human beings are capable of growing and improving, those who believe in Hackenberg appear to be doing it simply on blind faith.
The feeling here is that he does not belong on a pro roster, and the Jets made a mistake in bringing him aboard and they should wash their hands of him.
The NFL Draft is a curious thing. It’s merely a huge poker game at this point with about one month to go in the process. The quarterback class appears underwhelming, but that may not be the whole story.
Watson and Trubisky have plenty to offer, and while the latter does not have a long track record, the former has shown he can handle pressure and is a fine leader. There is a question about Watson’s accuracy as he has thrown 30 interceptions over the last two seasons, but when you consider he threw 1,070 passes over that same span, he should grade out extremely high.
Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney has given his former quarterback the highest endorsement, saying teams that pass on him in the draft will be passing on football’s version of Michael Jordan.
Swinney may be given to a bit of hyperbole, but there is little doubt that Watson has greatness stamped all over his personality.
The belief here is that Swinney is right. Teams that pass on Watson will be regretful in the future.
The Jets have a mediocre quarterback in McCown and a middling prospect in Petty. Hackenberg simply does not belong in an NFL camp, let alone on a regular season roster.
It’s time for the Jets to make a bold move and draft Watson.
Follow Steve on Twitter at @Profootballboy