Longevity means something in the NFL, especially at quarterback. It’s why Giants fans lost their minds when Eli Manning’s ironman streak of consecutive starts ended at 210, thanks to Ben McAdoo. And it’s why Josh McCown, at age 38, appreciates his current situation.
Todd Bowles on Wednesday confirmed a notion he’d been hinting at for the last several weeks: Barring injury, McCown will start the final four games of this 2017 for the Jets, who remain on the fringes of the AFC playoff picture after a home victory over the Chiefs last weekend.
For McCown, this is a chance to start 16 games for the first time in his 15-year NFL career. (At minimum, he’ll tie a career high in starts when he takes the field Sunday in Denver, with 13.) For Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg, this likely means waiting at least another offseason for an opportunity to start — in New York or elsewhere.
“Certainly it’s something that I would like to accomplish, there’s no doubt about it,” said McCown, who won AFC Offensive Player of the Week after totaling 331 passing yards and three touchdowns (two rushing) against Kansas City. “It’s a one-game-at-a-time mentality, but I have a ton of respect for the guys that have played and started for a long time in consecutive games, whether it’s (Brett) Favre, or Tom (Brady) or Peyton and Eli (Manning), all those guys. It’s impressive what those guys have been able to do and so for me just to go out, especially at this point in my career, and get 16 games is something to be proud of.”
The odds were stacked against McCown to begin this season, both because of his age and the state of the organization. Two young quarterbacks waited behind McCown on the depth chart, and it seemed only a matter of time before one of them took over under center. General manager Mike Maccagnan cut a slew of veteran players in the offseason, setting up a prime tanking scenario. Pundits across the country believed the Jets would be vying for the No. 1 overall pick.
Josh McCown was named the Jets starter for the rest of the season.
(Al Bello/Getty Images)
And yet entering Week 14, the Jets remain mathematically in playoff contention. McCown is playing the best football of his career and is the main reason the team is in this position.
Bowles has no choice but to continue playing him. Petty and Hackenberg must accept that fact.
“As a competitor, you obviously want to play. But at the same time, for his career and what he’s gone through, how do you not root for a guy to finish it out right?” a gracious Petty said at his locker Wednesday in Florham Park. “As productive as he’s been, you want to see that. I’m young, and I’m going to get my shot. I know that for a fact. So I’m just going to keep working.”
Hackenberg has yet to take a regular-season snap since the Jets drafted him in the second round of the 2016 draft. The 22-year-old avoids getting “frustrated” over his lack of playing time because it’s a “counter-productive way to do it.”
Christian Hackenberg will have to wait until next season for a shot to play.
“Just waiting for that opportunity. I know it’s going to come,” Hackenberg said. “I just need to continue to keep working on it and developing those things that I need to develop and be as prepared as I can when that opportunity does come. It starts with a plan each week, trying to set goals for myself and continuing to get better in those areas, taking extra time when I can to throw or work mechanical things. And then…develop a plan for the offseason and really attack that.”
McCown’s message to both Petty and Hackenberg: Stay patient.
“At this position, knowledge is power. The more that you can learn and really have a full grasp of things before you get your shot, the better off that you will be,” McCown said. “For them, I watch them work every day and they work really hard on the practice field and in the film room, so I do believe that wholeheartedly — that when their next opportunity comes, they’re going to be better for it because of the work that they put in right now.”