By DENNIS WASZAK Jr.
The Associated Press
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Todd Bowles will declare the winner of the New York Jets’ quarterback competition next Monday.
And, it would be a total stunner if Josh McCown isn’t under center for the regular-season opener on Sept. 10 at Buffalo.
Christian Hackenberg and Bryce Petty are also in the mix, but the 38-year-old McCown has been the front-runner for the job since signing a one-year, $6 million deal with New York in March.
“We’ll discuss it after the game [against the Giants on Saturday night] and come up with our starter,” Bowles said Monday after the team held a walkthrough practice. “We’ll do it [next] Monday after watching the film.”
Hackenberg, a second-round draft pick, never played in a regular-season game as a rookie. He has been given an opportunity this summer to seize the job. But he took a step back with a rocky performance while making his first start at Detroit on Saturday night.
Petty, a fourth-rounder in 2015, has been running third in the competition all summer.
Bowles wouldn’t reveal who’ll start against the Giants, with starting players usually seeing the bulk of the playing time in the third preseason game. He also declined to say whether the starting QB in that game would indicate who the starter in Week 1 would be.
“I have my own thoughts,” Bowles said. “But it’s a coaches’ decision with all of us.”
McCown didn’t play against the Lions and has taken only nine preseason snaps. He led the Jets to a touchdown during his only possession in the opener against Tennessee.
“Obviously, I’d be very disappointed if I’m not the guy,” McCown said Monday. “But at the same time, we’ll support whatever [Bowles] decides is best for the team.”
McCown said he was told by the coaching staff late last week that he wouldn’t play at Detroit. The decision to sit McCown seemed a bit curious, especially with Bowles saying he thought the veteran still “needs some work.”
“We all talked and I understood the situation,” McCown said. “Obviously, if you’re competitive, you want to play. But you also understand the situation that we’ve got two young guys that these preseason games can be valuable for because they can really get a lot of time and an opportunity to play.”
McCown has worked with the first-team offense most of the summer, although Hackenberg has seen his snaps increase over the past week to get some work with the starters. But McCown has been the clear No. 1 throughout training camp.
The Jets are the 10th team for which McCown has played during an NFL career that is entering its 16th season. He has been a starter, backup and third-stringer at different points, and doesn’t downplay the work he can get in the preseason. But he also understands the big picture.
“Would I like to be out there? Yeah,” he said. “But I also understand the reasons behind it.”
Hackenberg looked to be much improved in the preseason opener at Tennessee from how he played last summer as a wide-eyed rookie. He went 18 of 25 for 127 yards, and while he didn’t lead any touchdown drives, he also had no turnovers.
But against the Lions, Hackenberg struggled mightily while going just 2 of 6 for 14 yards. His inexperience showed early when he was sacked and fumbled on the third play when he made the incorrect read on the defense and got pounded by Detroit’s Cornelius Washington.
“It was a good learning experience,” Hackenberg said. “I thought they were bringing something and they adjusted, and they did a good job of bringing what I thought they weren’t going to bring.”
Hackenberg has failed to lead the Jets to any points this preseason in 13 possessions, another strong indicator that he likely isn’t ready — yet — to be the starter.
“It’s his decision, ultimately,” Hackenberg said of Bowles. “My job is to come in every day and learn as much as I can and go out and practice. That’s my focus from here on out, moving forward — today, tomorrow, next week, next month.”