FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - On the first day of spring practice, the Jets' presumed quarterback of the future was relegated to a far field to work with the third-stringers, while a 37-year-old journeyman got the first-team snaps on the main field. That's probably the way it'll be when training camp opens this summer.
But not definitely, because the Jets continue to insist that their quarterback depth chart is subject to change.
As they have all offseason long, the Jets insisted again on Tuesday that their quarterback competition will be wide open this year, and new offensive coordinator John Morton promised the three quarterbacks will all get reps with the first-team offense. On Day 1, Josh McCown got all the first-team snaps and Bryce Petty worked mostly with the second team, while off in the distance Christian Hackenberg worked with everyone else.
Asked about that after practice, though, Morton said "That was the plan to go with today." Throughout the spring and summer, he promised, the rotation will often change.
"We have a plan," Morton insisted. "The quarterbacks will be rotating, getting the same amount of reps (with the starters) throughout the week. We're giving everybody a great opportunity to show themselves and see if they can be the starter."
It remains likely that McCown will end up the starter, at least when training camp opens and probably on Opening Day. How long that lasts will depend on McCown's health and performance. At some point this season the Jets would like to get a look at Hackenberg, their second-round pick from 2016 who didn't play a single snap last year.
But given their dire situation, coming off a 5-11 season with a miserable outlook for 2017, the Jets seem truly open to any of the three quarterbacks winning the job. And in practice, at least, the Jets swear they will all get an equal chance.
"I tell all three of the quarterbacks - and this is every position - come to compete every single day," Morton said. "Prepare to come out and try to be perfect at everything you do. I think that's the most important thing. If you get guys out here to compete and strive to do their best, I think you'll get the best out of everybody."
The Jets seemed to get a good performance out of most of them on Day 1. McCown looked very sharp in his first team practice, displaying a strong and accurate arm (along with a very vocal leadership style). Petty was a little more erratic in his passing. Hackenberg, meanwhile, was practicing far from the media area and it was hard to say how he looked.
Regardless, as Jets coach Todd Bowles noted on Tuesday, the quarterbacks weren't facing a defense most of the day, and even in 11-on-11 drills there was no game-planning nor was their contact allowed. In practice, in other words, things can be easy. It will be in the games this summer when their performances will really count.
"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."
One way or another they will separate themselves, and at some point the Jets may have to decide what's more important: Their present or their future. As for when they'll be making the big decisions on the quarterbacks, the Jets either don't know, or they just won't say.
"We have a plan in place," Morton insisted. "Coach Bowles will make that call."