Eric Decker doesn’t want to dream of a scenario in which the New York Jets enter the 2016 NFL season without quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. He also doesn’t seem too keen on his team’s decision to spend a second-round pick on quarterback Christian Hackenberg out of Penn State.
Speaking to media at a United Way of New York event Tuesday, the receiver made it clear Fitzy’s his guy.
“Just because of the camaraderie we built and the relationship we had last year that we can build upon, I think he definitely is the right man for the type of team we have now,” Decker said, via Tom Rock of Newsday. “It’s a team that I think is ready to win now and we need someone of a better presence at the quarterback position.”
Decker’s words echo what fellow Jets receiver Brandon Marshall has been saying all offseason. He’s been banging this drum non-stop and recently suggested a Donald Trump book could help the two sides work out a deal to bring Fitzpatrick back into the fold.
At this point, it appears Fitzpatrick has nowhere else to go. He hasn’t received much more than a passing interest from teams since before the draft but reportedly said he would rather not play than take the deal New York has on the table. However, the latest rumor on this front is that Fitzpatrick is not going to retire.
The Jets haven’t appeared too worried about calling him on his bluff. They have all the negotiating power right now, and it seems likely he’ll end up back in New York for the upcoming season with the Jets.
That Marshall and Decker want to see that glorious beard in the huddle again this year isn’t surprising. They both had huge 2015 campaigns with Fitzpatrick throwing the ball, combining to catch 189 passes for 2,529 yards and 26 touchdowns.
If Fitzpatrick doesn’t come back, the Jets are left with Geno Smith, Bryce Petty and Hackenberg. At this point it seems clear the players have zero confidence in Smith to get the job done. Petty is still very much a project, as is Hackenberg.
On that note, it’s kind of surprising to hear what Decker had to say about the Penn State product, via Rock, who reports Decker as being “surprised the team made such a significant investment in the position that early in the draft.”
“They saw something special in him,” Decker said. “They wanted to get him earlier rather than later, I guess.”
Way to make a rookie feel welcome.
In reality, though, Decker’s sentiment isn’t wrong. Hackenberg landing with the Jets can only end in disaster.
He has plenty of athletic talent, but he was wildly inaccurate in college. Quarterbacks who have been inaccurate in college don’t typically develop great accuracy in the pros — Eli Manning being one of the rare exceptions.
Back to Fitzpatrick. The Jets need him, and he needs them.
The two sides are bound to get a deal done before the start of the season. However, at this point it needs to happen sooner, rather than later. Otherwise all the camaraderie and rapport developed last year might be slow in coming back. And in the AFC East, the Jets cannot afford to hit any speed bumps.