Jets coach Todd Bowles announced the decision Monday, but didn’t provide any assurances that McCown would start past Week 1. He also did not confirm whether Christian Hackenberg or Bryce Petty will be McCown’s backup.
This was the inevitable conclusion to a confusing QB competition that has lasted nearly five months. Although McCown hasn’t taken a preseason snap since the first series of Gang Green’s first game against the Tennessee Titans, and the Jets significantly tapered off McCown’s practice reps over the last two weeks as they prepared Hackenberg to start, the veteran earned the job by default.
“I’m just humbled for this opportunity and I look forward to making the most of it,” McCown said.
In three preseason starts, Hackenberg failed to steal the starting gig from McCown, a 38-year-old journeyman. Hackenberg turned 22 preseason possessions into just nine points and threw two first-half pick-sixes in the Jets‘ loss to the Giants on Saturday. Though New York simplified the playbook for the sophomore gunslinger, Hackenberg did not adjust accordingly when asked to do more against opposing first-team defenses.
Petty, the near-forgotten third-string option who started four games last season, ended the competition with a bang, throwing three second-half touchdowns against the Giants. However, he suffered an MCL injury on New York’s final drive, which likely will sideline him early on.
And then there was McCown, and only McCown. This will be the seventh different team for which the elder statesman has started a game in his 15-year career. Brought in from Cleveland in the offseason to be a cheap, competitive mentor to Hackenberg and Petty, McCown has assumed the Jets‘ starting role by standing back and letting the young guns hand it to him.
How long McCown stays under center — and healthy — remains to be seen. When Petty gets healthy or Hackenberg finally “gets it,” New York will have no problem handing the reins to a fresh face. But for now, for Week 1 against a division rival, the steadier hand will pilot the Jets.