Bent, theJetsBlog.com Follow on Twitter
The Jets quarterback position is always closely scrutinized, with controversies dreamed up even when the team is adamant none should exist.
If the team says it's an open competition, everyone suspects they'll hand the job to their favorite. When they say their choice gives them the best chance to win, nobody agrees. Even if they name a starter and give him all the starter reps, the tendency is for everyone to assume they must be lying.
This year is different though. There's a real competition, drawing justified attention on a local and national level because it's completely wide open.
The case for Josh McCown
McCown started the first 13 games of last year and the Jets were a different team without him. Although he only won five, the Jets blew a late lead or missed a late opportunity to tie or go ahead in more than half of their eight losses with McCown at the helm. With a better supporting cast, McCown could have had the Jets in contention for a postseason spot late into December. He now has the improved supporting cast, so how far could he take them?
The issue is that the Jets can't rely on McCown emulating his 2017 performance. A few years ago, they re-signed Ryan Fitzpatrick after a record-breaking 2015 season, only for him to completely fall apart in his second season. Of course, part of that was because he missed most of the offseason program while waiting for a new deal. McCown has had a full offseason to prepare and take the lion's share of the first team reps, having succeeded last year even though he barely played in the preseason.
The case for Sam Darnold
With the rookie Darnold, the only question is how soon is too soon? This will be his team in due course and, based on his progress during the offseason, that seems like it will come sooner rather than later. Jets fans have already seen how a quarterback who starts as a rookie can develop bad habits, require high-priced talent around them to succeed, and can get the yips once they lose trust in themselves, their receivers or their protection.
The prevailing notion that the Jets aren't a playoff contender might not be shared by the team, so the idea that they might as well just throw Darnold out there as soon as they can doesn't really fly. If the future is now, that could mean they're sacrificing the possibility of a postseason run -- one which would be the first for this regime and each of their longest-tenured players.
More important than that, though, is whether sitting Darnold or throwing him out there before he's ready will slow down his development. If the Jets feel he can learn by shadowing whoever starts, then he might have to bide his time.
The case for Teddy Bridgewater
In any other season over the last decade -- and probably longer than that -- Jets fans would have sold their souls for a player with Bridgewater's credentials. A 25-year old pro bowler who led his team to the postseason in his second season?
If it sounds too good to be true, it's because it probably is. There's a reason Bridgewater was available, let alone on the team-friendly deal the Jets signed him to.
Bridgewater's horrific knee injury two years ago could have ended his career and the jury is still out as to whether he can be an NFL starter ever again. However, the ongoing concern over whether he would be able to compete during the offseason program was overblown. After all, Bridgewater saw brief action in a regular season game late last season, so he'd already made it back to the point where he could practice fully and be on an active roster six months beforehand.
Reports indicate Bridgewater looked good in practice in Minnesota but that Vikings doctors still had some concerns. If his athleticism is compromised, how much is that going to affect him? Bridgewater has always been more of a pocket-passer than a dual threat quarterback, so he doesn't rely on his legs as much as his quick decision-making and accuracy.
With McCown in place, the Jets' whole season doesn't hinge on Bridgewater being able to perform well as the starter. In 2013, the Jets brought in an injury-prone former pro bowler in David Garrard and after his injuries forced him to retire before preseason, they ultimately ended up forced to start rookie Geno Smith, who was ill-prepared and inconsistent.
Darnold may yet prove that he is ready, but if he doesn't win the job he'll likely see early action -- even if only in mop-up duties. The calls for him to take over will grow in intensity if the starter falters or the team falls out of contention.