FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) - The New York Jets’ starting quarterback job is up for grabs.
That means a three-man competition this spring - and maybe summer - between Josh McCown, Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg, with the winner under center for the regular-season opener. At least that’s the company line, as expected, at the moment.
“We’re giving everybody a great opportunity to show themselves,” new offensive coordinator John Morton said Tuesday, “and see if they can be the starter.”
Coach Todd Bowles wouldn’t put a timetable on selecting a starter, adding that the competition is “wide open” and might not be settled until training camp.
“Obviously, you want to see them start to separate at some point,” Bowles said. “It’s going to come down to playing in games. As far as getting more reps in practice as we go, we’ll see what happens.”
During the first practice of organized team activities, McCown predictably got the most work with the starting offense in team drills. Petty got some snaps, too, while Hackenberg worked on the second field with backups.
That’s all by design, Morton said, and is no reflection on who might be the front-runner in the competition.
“We have a plan, so guys will be rotating,” Morton said. “The quarterbacks will be rotating, getting the same amount of reps throughout the week.”
Still, McCown would appear to be the favorite to be the one leading the offense on Sept. 10 at Buffalo. The veteran quarterback, who turns 38 on July, signed a one-year, $6 million deal with the Jets in March after spending the past two seasons in Cleveland.
New York marks the 10th NFL franchise McCown has spent time with, and he’s largely considered an ideal mentor and “bridge” quarterback at this point in his career.
“Any time someone refers to you as ‘great’ at something, as long as it’s positive, I don’t think it’s bad,” McCown said. “I understand what they’re saying and certainly looking back, having played on this many teams, nobody obviously sits down and says, ‘Hey, I want to play for 10 teams in my career and move all over the place.’
“At the same time, I’ve played 15 years and I’m very proud of that. This is the journey that was set out before me, so I want to take my experiences and be able to hand them to those guys as best I can.”
McCown realizes, of course, that he’s not in the long-term plans for the franchise. The Jets are hoping Hackenberg or Petty can show that they might be the future.
Hackenberg was drafted in the second round out of Penn State last year, but never saw the field during the regular season as he was considered a major project.
“We just started today, so we have a long way to go, but I love the way he prepares and the way he competes,” Morton said. “I’m talking about competing in the classroom, too. Guys have to learn to do that, and be a pro and be a student of the game, and learn to take notes and those things. He’s doing those things, but it’s too early to tell right now football wise.”
Morton comes from a West Coast-style background, which would appear to be most ideal for McCown, who worked with the offensive coordinator when the two were in San Francisco in 2011.
Hackenberg thrived in a pro-style offense under then-coach Bill O’Brien during his freshman season at Penn State. When O’Brien left to become the Texans’ coach, Penn State went to a spread offense, and Hackenberg took his share of lumps.
Petty, a fourth-rounder in 2015, had a prolific career running Art Briles’ spread-style system at Baylor. Injuries and inconsistency at this level have prevented Petty from taking the next step so far in his development.
Morton watched all of the tapes of Hackenberg and Petty from college, as well as Petty’s four NFL starts last season in place of Ryan Fitzpatrick.
“Yeah, get to know these guys, find out things that they’re good at,” Morton said, “and what they’re comfortable with.”
Morton said he won’t have a set style of offense, but rather will adjust to the opponent from week to week. There’s one thing, though, that the coach will stress to his quarterbacks as they go through the offseason program.
“Take care of the ball,” he said. “I think that’s important - and move the chains. That’s the No. 1 thing. That’s what I preached this morning, first time going against the defense. I showed them cutups of how to take care of the ball, and that’s the quarterback making the right decisions.
“We win the turnover battle, we have a better chance of getting in the playoffs.”
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