One thing I’ve learned in my years of covering the NFL—this is a quarterback league. Can you be successful with a journeyman quarterback? Yes it is possible but highly unlikely and the Jets are seeing the results of that decision making in the last two seasons.
In that scenario with talent around the QB, you are likely an 8-8 team or if you get real lucky and get some breaks you can push it to 10-6 like the Jets did last year when the Giants and Patriots handed over wins to them. But you could also have a season like 2016 where injuries occur, breaks go south, and your schedule toughens up. That’s how you go 3-8 and disappear in the AFC East basement.
We all know Ryan Fitzpatrick will not be the Jet quarterback next season but what makes things worse is the Jets have no idea about internal options because they have hesitated in inserting them in the lineup unless Fitz is hurt. Having a losing season is bad enough but the only thing worse is having a losing year and still going into the off-season with no working knowledge of the feasibility of Bryce Petty or Christian Hackenberg.
To me, Bryce Petty is a by-product of playing for a college team that was fast and loose with the offense as Baylor ran up and down the field like this game is a track meet and that does not help a young quarterback become NFL ready. Christian Hackenberg, on the other hand, does have college experience in a pro-style offense and the time to look at him is right now and by that I mean next Monday night vs the Colts. Give him a five game tryout and find out if he has what it takes to excel at this level. He is going to make mistakes but there is only so much you could discern in practice—and this team simply can’t go into the off-season not knowing about him.
The Jets have used high draft picks in the past few years to draft three QB’s-Geno Smith, Christian Hackenberg, and Bryce Petty and if none of them show they can play, that’s a huge problem if for no other reason than those picks were wasted and could have been used to draft players at other positions that could have helped this team. In fairness to the present managerial staff, Geno Smith was drafted by the previous regime but you get my point here.
While you get a look at the young quarterbacks, I would keep another name in the back of your mind-Tony Romo who may be available this off-season. He would command a high price but to me he is just the type of persona the Jets need at this position. He gets far too much grief for Cowboys playoff failures and his arm strength coupled with his leadership skills makes him a perfect fit in the Jets Green and White. I truly believe Brandon Marshall and Romo could become an unforgettable combo for Jet fans and I would do it in a heartbeat.
Is there a risk due to his recent injuries? Of course there is but without risk a quarterback of his stature would never be available and I firmly believe he could be peddled around if the Cowboys win and go far in the playoffs without him no matter what the enigmatic owner of the Cowboys says about it.
Are there other holes that need to be filled on this Jet team? Of course there are but as I said in the opening of this column, this is a quarterback league and without one, you are destined for disappointing years that could range from a playoff appearance where you are one and done to a season the Jets are having right now. And that is not fun for the fans as it gets them depressed creating years of disappointing Sundays.
So my message to Mike Maccagnan is simple: Put Hackenberg at the controls for the last 5 games but monitor the Romo situation. My sense is Romo might want a new start and my selling job to him would be simple: You bring this team to the promised land and you can the biggest star in this town and at the same time, illustrate you were underappreciated in Dallas.
That’s the best plan this team could have going forward if they want to bring the Jet fans that elusive moment they have waited patiently for decades to live through.