By MICHAEL FAIRLIE //
There has been a great deal of disappointment among much of the Jets’ fan base over the team’s decision to select Josh McCown as their free agency signing at the quarterback position.
As an incredibly passionate fan of the team for almost 40 years, I absolutely understand that. We have lived through a seemingly, never-ending nightmare of a quarterback carousel for what seems like an eternity. Yes, there has been a good season by a QB here and there, but something always happens when it starts to get interesting. The spark is perpetually snuffed before it can become a flame.
We had Ken O’Brien, who despite always having to live in the shadow of Dan Marino, was beginning to look a lot like the real deal in ’85 and ’86, dishing out 50 TDs and 7,578 yards along the way. When the strike of ’87 came, it seemed to sink his ship and he never got back to his prior form.
Vinny Testaverde, who had bounced from one horrible team to the next, eventually found his way to New York, where he finally put it all together in 1998. Keyshawn Johnson and Wayne Chrebet formed a strong bond with Vinny, combining for 2,214 yards receiving and 18 touchdowns.
The Jets even put forth an impressive playoff run that came crashing down in the 3rd quarter of the AFC Championship Game in Denver. Then came the torn Achilles tendon during the first game of ’99 and the rest was history.
2002 saw the ascension of Chad Pennington into the starting role, and this time around it was the combination of Wayne Chrebet and Laveranues Coles that hauled in 14 TDs and a combined 1,955 yards.
But, after trouncing the Colts by the tune of 41-0 in the Wildcard game, that season came crashing down in a disheartening 31-10 loss to Oakland. After his wrist and initial rotator cuff injury in 2003 and 2004 respectively, Chad was never the same.
Then we were blessed with the Sanchize, who of course was gifted with an excellent OL, a semi-dominant defense, and a great running game. He never looked spectacular, but often seemed to find a way to turn it on and get the team going when he needed to, leading to multiple 4th quarter comebacks in his first two years.
Sanchez also found a way to help the team to two straight AFCCGs, winning four road playoff games against some of the NFLs all-time great QBs. Again, he never looked great, but he had a way about him, and the arrow was pointed up.
The next two seasons saw a lot of poor decisions made by the organization as well as Sanchez morphing into one of the worst quarterbacks I have ever seen. It got more and more painful to watch him each week, and he always found a way to outdo himself in incompetence. It was as ugly as ugly can be at the end.
Ryan Fitzpatrick had a record-setting season in 2015, but it turned out to be a mirage in 2016, when he came crashing back down to earth at a rapid pace. He also showed that he is not the leader he appeared to be when he complained about his treatment by the team’s hierarchy during an historically bad run.
We, as a fan base, have been dying for a franchise quarterback since the days of Joe Namath, which was just slightly enough before my time for me to miss it. It has been a painful ride for the most part, with much more downs than ups, especially at the most important position on the team.
So now we come back to the current situation of the New York Jets’ field general and the recent signing of veteran journeyman Josh McCown.
I will be the first to admit that McCown was far from my ideal choice when this whole free agency madness began.
I had pie-in-the-sky dreams of Jay Cutler coming in, putting his ego aside, and finally truly coming into his own, fully displaying all the raw talent he has. It is quite possible that he knows where he is at in his career and realizes that this may be his last chance to make the most of his abilities. It is also possible that he would walk around like his shit don’t stink and be a horrible influence on the team’s young QBs.
Or then there was the incredibly controversial choice of Colin Kaepernick, who despite seeming like a shell of himself in recent years, has been on an awful team with dreadful leadership since Harbaugh left town. The guy is still blessed with enormous talent, although he seems to have lost some of his confidence, and if put in the right situation I believe he can succeed.
I, as an American, firmly believe that he has the right to express his opinions, although I do understand people getting upset over his kneeling for the anthem as well as not agreeing with some of his other political views. But if you look at it objectively, no matter how fervent you are in your beliefs, when compared to some of the horrendous things other players have done, it is rather ridiculous to ostracize him.
We have convicted rapists, woman abusers, child abusers, animal abusers and various other actual criminals that we regularly tolerate being given a second chance, yet we want to hang this guy in the public square for speaking his mind and peacefully demonstrating. This is also a guy that does a ton of charity work, and to the best of my knowledge has never been a problem off the field, which is much more than I can say for a decent percentage of the NFL.
Anyway, after all of that ranting, I will climb off my soapbox as I am sure to have upset someone with that. Even though I do not hate the guy like a lot of people do, I do agree that Kaepernick would probably not be the right choice for the Jets at this time. The distraction it would cause, justified or not, would get in the way of a team looking to rebuild itself and establish an identity.
Mike Glennon is another quarterback I though the Jets should at least consider, and I believe they did. When I saw the contract that he got from Chicago I was more than happy to see the Jets pass him up. Although possessing an intriguing skill-set to say the least, Glennon has only started a handful of games and is far from a sure thing on a team that already has two prospects at the position. For that price, they had to pass.
There was an outcry among many fans to bring Geno back and give him one more chance to prove himself in the green and white. While I agree that he was not brought on in the best of circumstances, and could have gone with a season or two to learn on the sideline, he has not done much to justify keeping him around.
In the small amount of action he received in 2016, he still appeared to be unaware of when to just get rid of the ball as it led to his season ending on a play that he could have easily survived if he threw it out of bounds. Geno is a talented athlete and can make some fantastic throws, but I think he still lacks the leadership and maturity to put it all together. Maybe a change of scenery and learning from a great quarterback like Manning will be just what he needs, but it was time to cut bait for the Jets.
Bringing back Mark Sanchez has been floated out there by some fans, but I do not think he was ever a realistic option. Between the fact that he seems to be the same mistake-prone signal caller that we were endlessly tortured by during his last two seasons as the starter and the distraction it would cause with the bottom-feeding media here in New York, that would surely be a disaster waiting to happen. I also think he is not the kind of guy you want your young QBs learning from.
There were a few other somewhat realistic possibilities, including Brian Hoyer, Chase Daniel, Nick Foles, Matt Barkley and Josh Johnson. These options were not exactly awe-inspiring either. Foles was a bit intriguing although he fell off the map after his statistical anomaly with Philadelphia in 2013. Barkley is in the same boat as Glennon, as far as being unproven, with less upside. Daniel has almost no experience starting with 78 pass attempts at the age of 30. Also 30, Josh Johnson has thrown a whopping 177 passes.
Brian Hoyer is the only one of that bunch that might have had the experience and leadership combination to help in the development of the Jets’ youngsters. With a similar career arc and somewhat similar stats, he was basically the only real competition to McCown as far as a true veteran leader/mentor for Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg.
Being that the Jets have two young quarterbacks that they have drafted in the last two years, and there are no true top-10 picks at QB in this year’s draft, I really feel that the best course of action was to find a leader with a proper attitude to help the kids develop. As much as I wanted to catch lightning in a bottle with Cutler, Glennon or Kaep, the only two logical fits for the Jets this year were Hoyer and McCown.
Since the Jets are at least claiming that they want to see what they can get out of their two recent picks, McCown was probably the better choice. At least on the surface, it appears that McCown is more willing to take a back seat and act as a mentor if need be. Although he has been far from the most successful quarterback, he has an amazing team-first attitude and his knowledge of the game exceeds his performance, which are things Petty and Hackenberg can benefit from.
The $6 million guaranteed that the Jets gave to Josh may have been more than what he deserved, but with little invested in the position for 2017, it may be worth it for the leadership and positive attitude he provides. On top of that, he is only here for one year, while the team hopes that Hackenberg or Petty can emerge as the starter.
One could certainly make the argument that Hoyer might have been a better move as he has similar qualities and is 6 years younger, but who knows if he even wanted to come to the Jets or if he was willing to stand on the sideline while one of the kids played? Hoyer was also obviously asking for at least two years as that is what he received from San Francisco.
My feeling is that for what the Jets seem to be trying to do, either one of them could be the guy they were looking for and it appears that McCown was more willing to accept their terms.
To be completely honest, I am hoping that the Jets go into training camp with the mindset of allowing Hackenberg and Petty a legitimate shot at winning a quarterback competition. I also hope that one of those two wins and starts the season behind center. I am not exactly excited at the prospect of seeing McCown handed the starting role instead of seeing what you have in the young guys before the 2018 draft rolls around.
If Josh McCown does somehow win the starting job, I will absolutely root for him to shock the world and come out with a Rich Gannon-like resurgence at the end of his career. I would love for him to earn the complete $13 million that his contract could be worth in incentives, meaning that he just led the Jets to their first Super Bowl victory since the days of Joe Willie and his pantyhose commercials.
Being that that whole scenario is about as likely as me winning the Power Ball tonight, I would definitely prefer to see Petty and/or Hackenberg at the wheel before they spend another pick on a QB that they might not need.
In my opinion, it is much more important that they solidify the supporting cast on both sides of the ball, while they learn what they have behind center during this transition time. Hopefully, by the end of the season they will have found their QB. If not, let’s hope they will have at least built well around the position and can grab a rookie to lead the way in 2018.
There was no miracle cure available at quarterback in free agency and I feel that the Jets made the wise decision, although not the most splashy or popular, for the direction they have chosen to go.
I am not in the group of fans that are hoping for the Jets to tank the season for a top 5 draft pick, nor do I feel that they are headed in that direction with the moves they have made.
Who did they really get rid of that makes people think they are tanking?
Darrelle Revis, who forgot how to tackle and was arguably the worst CB in the NFL last year, along with his enormous contract are gone. Breno Giacomini, who was mostly awful, is now a former Jet. A tough one to swallow was Nick Mangold, but his body finally appears to be breaking down and they saved a good chunk of change in that move. Do you think he would still be a free agent if he was even close to who he used to be?
Brandon Marshall, who saved the team $7.5 million, could have still been a productive part of the offense, but it’s not the end of the world to move on with young promising WRs like Enunwa, Peake, Anderson and Jalin Marshall on the roster. Way overpaid for a kicker, Nick Folk was sent packing. They also let the underwhelming Ryan Fitzpatrick and Geno Smith walk. Additionally, they parted ways with stuck-in-the-90’s offensive coordinator Chan Gailey and most of his underachieving staff.
None of the subtractions the Jets made were going to make or break the 2017 season. They did lose Mangold’s leadership and Marshall’s potential to take over a game, when he actually holds onto the ball, but it is more of an addition by subtraction situation as it gives the team far more roster flexibility in 2017 and beyond, while also getting younger. The offensive line looks improved and Morris Claiborne is better than Revis at this point in his career. We also still have a draft about a month away.
I am not saying that I expect this team to make a playoff run, but I think they can be a competitive team and I am in no way going to concede the season and root for the #1 pick before training camp even starts.
I do believe we are going to have to be patient and there is still a big question mark at quarterback, but the answer could be on the roster and this team can be better than the 2-14 projections that are being strewn about with reckless abandon.
Let’s all take a deep breath and see how this thing plays out before we get sucked into the media shit-storm of negativity that is surrounding this squad.