The New York Jets have been one of football’s more pleasant surprises in 2017. Still, they are 4-6 and are playoff longshots. That, of course, triggers a natural question. Why is the team continuing to play 38-year-old Josh McCown instead of 22-year-old (and former second-round pick) Christian Hackenberg?
Jets’ quarterback coach Jeremy Bates has an answer for that very question.
“We’re focused more on the Carolina Panthers than getting into that debate,” Bates said, per Rich Cimini of ESPN. “Of course, we’ll have that conversation at the end of the season. As an organization, this is professional football. This isn’t Triple-A.”
It’s an interesting argument.
To be fair, McCown has played reasonably well in 2017. He’s completed 69 percent of his passes, has 14 touchdowns against eight interceptions, and a 93.7 passer rating. For now, Bates’ argument is somewhat credible. New York is a playoff longshot at 4-6. But if the Jets run the table (or lose maybe one more game), they can still make it.
But after that, there’s essentially no reason not to play Hackenberg. Because unless you’re in a historically bad division (which New York is not), anything less than 9-7 is not getting you to the playoffs. And frankly, at that point, the remaining games are essentially Triple-A.
With that said, NFL history has featured some quarterbacks who are just better when the games count. Don’t the Jets owe it to themselves to see if Hackenberg is that guy? If they already feel he’s not, then he shouldn’t be on the roster.
Mind you, we’re not saying that he is. But we are saying that it’s worth a look.
At this point, we can only safely assume that New York is not making the playoffs. But until the Jets get to eight losses, we don’t know it. But after that point, continuing to play McCown with Hackenberg (not to mention Bryce Petty) on the bench is just short-sighted.
It’s highly unlikely that either Hackenberg or Petty will turn into a franchise quarterback. But unless McCown has some Benjamin Button tricks up his sleeve, it’s impossible that he’s that guy.
If he’s the quarterback who gives the team a better chance to make the playoffs, then leave him out there. But when he’s the quarterback who simply gives your team a better chance of going 7-9 or 6-10 instead of 5-11 or 4-12, it’s time to give the younger guys a look.