Sports

Jets’ quarterback controversy dominates 2018 offseason conversation

For the first time in nearly a decade, New York Jets fans have something to be excited about.  This summer, three exciting quarterbacks will all be competing for the starting job in training camp.

All of them have impressed so far during organized team activities and minicamp, with each QB showcasing the skills that can help Gang Green both on and off the field.

The obvious favorite to get the job appears to be Josh McCown. The grizzled veteran has been on nine teams over the span of his 16-year career, but seems to have finally found his niche with the Jets. He had a career year in 2017, exceeding nearly everyone’s expectations by setting personal bests across the board.

The Jets were impressed enough to retain the quarterback on a one-year deal and have so far gotten about 80 percent of the first team reps in minicamp.  That being said, McCown is hardly a spring chicken at 38 years old, and while his experience and grit bring a lot to the table, he is certainly not the long-term answer behind center for
the Jets.

McCown is expected to start Week 1, but that could easily change if the other two quarterbacks impress during training camp and the preseason.

McCown is a competitor and obviously wants to be the starter, but has also expressed his interest in grooming the future QB of New York. His leadership and work ethic make him the perfect mentor to the other quarterbacks on the roster.

A dark horse candidate to watch for the rest of the summer is Teddy Bridgewater. Fans might remember Bridgewater as the exciting 2014 first-rounder who showed real promise for the Minnesota Vikings before a tragic leg injury held him out for a majority of the past two seasons. Now he’s back and looks primed to revamp his career in the Big Apple. Before the draft, the Jets took a low-risk, high-reward chance on Bridgewater with a mostly nonguaranteed one-year deal.

If the quarterback is anything close to what he was before the injury, he could steal the job away from McCown and possibly give the Jets a chance to contend for a wild-card spot. His resilient comeback story is as exciting as it is improbable, and the entire NFL will surely be watching to see how he does.

Bridgewater’s story is an inspiring one, but his time in New York may end up serving as more of an audition for 2019 than anything else. The Jets already feel that they have their quarterback of the future on the roster and he is neither Bridgewater nor McCown.

Still, who knows what might happen if Bridgewater puts together an impactful season and leads Gang Green on an unexpected playoff run. More likely than not, however, he will be playing somewhere else next season. Still, look for him to possibly steal the job from McCown this summer and definitely get at least some playing time once the season starts.  With McCown’s injury history and Bridgewater’s encouraging minicamp thus far, it’s not out of the question for the latter to lead the team for most of the year.

Last but certainly not least is Sam Darnold.

The highly touted third overall pick from the University of Southern California practically fell into the Jets’ lap on draft night and everyone within the organization has not hidden how happy they are about it. Darnold is not expected to start the season right away, but if he has a mind-blowing next few months, that plan could quickly change.

For the time being, he’s expected to continue working with coaches and players every day as he learns from Bridgewater and McCown.

The keys to the franchise will ultimately be handed to the 21-year-old sometime this season, but head coach Todd Bowles and company will most likely decide to take a more cautious approach in handling him at first, especially given the two talented veteran QBs already on the roster.

Overall, Jets fans finally have a reason to be excited about the position of quarterback this season.  The team may still be far behind their archrivals, the New England Patriots, in terms of talent, but it’s possible that this roster could make a run at a playoff spot if everything goes their way. Even if it doesn’t, this is still a squad that can win some games and give fans an exciting season while building for the future.

This current season will mark the 50th year since Joe Namath led the Jets to their first and only Super Bowl win back in 1969.

It would be extremely premature to call any of these three quarterbacks the next Namath, or to say that the Jets are even close to winning their second ring, but one thing is definitely certain: With two experienced veterans helping Darnold improve every day, Gang Green may very well be on their way soon enough.

June 27, 2018

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Evan Lewis


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