When you look around the NFL these days you can easily tell the contenders from the pretenders. The contenders are the ones with franchise quarterbacks. The ones with uncertainty at that position are the pretenders. The New York Jets fall into that second category.
The Jets have not had a franchise quarterback in quite some time. Technically, since Joe Namath strolled the quagmires of Shea Stadium in the 1960’s and 70’s. They have had some solid players at the position over the years but no one that lasted and were beloved by fans.
Richard Todd wasn’t as bad as some remember. Ken O’Brien held the position for most of the 1980’s and put up decent numbers. Since then, the Jets have been plugging and playing a combination of past-their-prime veterans and B and C-level talent.
They have tried everything and everybody, from Boomer Esiason, Brett Favre and Vinny Testeverde to Neil O’Donnell, Chad Pennington, Mark Sanchez and Ryan Fitzpatrick. Their current options are Bryce Petty, Christian Hackenberg and host of dwindling, unattractive free agents.
Gone are Fitzpatrick and Geno Smith, the latter drawing by the Giants and other teams. Petty, a fourth round pick a few years back, is a backup at best. He does not possess NFL starter qualities and it’s hard to see the Jets pinning their hopes on him. Hackenberg was selected way too early by GM Mike Maccagnan in last year’s NFL Draft (51st overall) and is nowhere near ready to start for this, or any other, team.
The Jets, with nearly $30 million in cap space to play with, were hopeful to lure a young free agent to Florham Park, but the top talent on the market ran to other destination. Tampa Bay backup Mike Glennon was said to be coveted by the Jets but he was signed to a monster deal by the Chicago Bears (3 years, $45 million). Tyrod Taylor opted to stay in Buffalo. The rest of the pickins are slim.
The Jets are said to be interested in the recently released Jay Cutler, but do they really want to go down that road? Cutler has the big arm that could help them bridge the gap until they can fins a longer term solution. But Cutler comes with baggage. He’s not the easiest guy to get along with and do you really want to start to a rebuild with a disgruntled veteran. The Jets will surely struggle early on in this process and Cutler, who will have to endure some punsihment behind the Jets’ young offensive line, may not have the temperament nor the patience at this point of his life.
It’s doubtful they return to Sanchez, Fitzpatrick or Geno. Other option include Colin Kaepernick, Josh McCown, Chase Daniel, Blaine Gabbert, Case Keenum, Ryan Nassib, Robert Griffin III, E.J. Manuel and T.J. Yates. Good luck with that group.
The Jets may be best off trying to pick up they next QB in the draft, where they hold the sixth overall selection. It is not, however, a very strong class. It is possible they can get one of the top names in North Carolina’s Mitchell Trubisky, Deshaun Watson of Clemson, Notre Dame’s DeShone Kizer and Pat Mahomes II of Texas Tech.
None of those players are considered to be “franchise” level but all could end up being serviceable starters in the NFL. At this stage of the game, that would be a huge upgrade over what they have at the moment.