It looked to finally be time to see Christian Hackenberg make his NFL debut Sunday, but head coach Todd Bowles kept him on the sideline despite a struggling Bryce Petty in the game.
Hackenberg had been taking first-team reps for the Jets throughout the week at practice, and he even saw half of the first 15 plays during Saturday's walkthrough. However, Bowles didn't think it was Hackenberg's time to play.
"There's a time to play a lot of guys," Bowles told NJ.com's Connor Hughes. "Wasn't the time yet. Wasn't his time."
Why wasn't it his time? Well, Bowles believes that Petty won the backup job behind Josh McCown, and it would have been unfair to bench him despite his struggles.
"Bryce beat him out in the preseason," Bowles said on Hackenberg. "I'm not going to bench Bryce over three games when he has a chance to play ... When you don't win the No. 2 job, it's kind of a foregone conclusion that you're not going to play.
"When you lose the No. 2 job, and you've got two guys ahead of you, how's it going to fluctuate when you lost it honestly?"
But, in Hackenberg's defense, Petty hasn't looked good since taking over for McCown. He led the Jets' offense to seven punts, two field goals, a missed field goal, and a safety in his drives this Sunday. The Jets also didn't convert on one of 12 third down attempts. He would finish the game 19-for-36 for 232 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions.
"These were the last three games," Bowles said. "You have to see (Petty) play."
Now, the Jets are put into a predicament as they enter the offseason. They have a top-10 pick (No. 6), and are expected to have about $100 million in cap space to work with. They have other positions to address, but none more important than at quarterback. General manager Mike Maccagnan will have to make a big decision in potentially going after a quarterback in the draft, or look at a free-agent option even without seeing Hackenberg in regular season action.
Hackenberg believes he has what it takes to compete, but he knows it isn't his call to get on the field and prove that.
"I'm confident about my ability to come in," Hackenberg said. "That's not my call. But I know the way I approach things, the way I work, I'm excited about the opportunity to compete for it.
"I think there have been some things I can build on. I think I've done well. There are things I can continue to grow with. I've also learned a lot, too. Again, taking the positives away, I felt good about (this year), but not necessarily satisfied. I'm really excited about being able to go into the offseason and come back and continue to work on things, correct some things."
But without any sample size to work with, Hackenberg will have to return next spring having not made any progress in yet another season.
"We don't know if he can or can't," Bowles said on if Hackenberg can play. "He works hard every day ... He'll come back next year. He'll work hard in the spring. We'll look at it then."