The question that has loomed over this surprising Jets team was finally given a definitive answer on Wednesday.
Barring an injury, Josh McCown will be the starting quarterback for the remaining four weeks, meaning that the journeyman will play a complete season for the first time in his 16-year career. That also means Jets fans wont see Bryce Petty or Christian Hackenberg at all, as many thought they would.
Hackenberg, a second-round pick in 2016 out of Penn State, will thus go two full years without seeing regular-season action.
Coach Todd Bowles has previously implied McCown would maintain his job, but he left little doubt this time around.
Ive been saying that, said Bowles, when asked the lingering question.
So McCown will be the guy the rest of the way?
Thats what Ive been saying, he repeated.
With a playoff spot still up for grabs, albeit a long shot, and McCown performing as well as he has earning AFC Offensive Player of the Week honors for his 313 yards and three total touchdowns (one passing, two rushing) against Kansas City this decision shouldnt alarm anyone.
It came as no shock to McCown. This was the goal, and the belief, from Day 1.
Its always good [to hear that], but that was my plan and my expectation, he said following practice Wednesday in Florham Park. To hear that I guess just reaffirms it. But I had every expectation of doing that anyway.
As a competitor, you expect to play well, and your goal is to play well. So that was my mindset going into each week. I appreciate [Bowles] saying that, but for me, my mindset I think every guy in this locker room when your number is called, you play until they tell you youre not in. That hasnt changed.
Hackenberg, who has apparently learned a lot from McCown, fully understands this decision.
Josh has played really well. I dont see why [Bowles] would go for a change, he said. Hes played at a really high level. Its been really good to watch. Just how he works, how he operates, how he plays. Hes earned that. So I dont really see why its a big deal.
Hackenberg is right. His mentor has earned the right to keep going, leading a team that some predicted would go 0-16 to a 5-7 mark through the first 12 games. McCowns 68 percent completion rate ranks fourth in the NFL, and among players with more that 205 pass attempts McCown is 10th in passer rating (96.7). He has tossed a career-high 18 touchdowns and rushed for an additional five.
The veteran has made it impossible to employ what was perceived as the initial plan to eventually get Petty and Hackenberg some reps once the season had tanked.
Petty appeared in six games and made four starts in 2016, throwing for 809 yards with three touchdowns and seven interceptions.
Asked if its tough to remain patient, Petty responded, I think my whole career has been stay patient. If theres anything Ive learned from that, its the fact that when I start being antsy and thinking that Ive got a plan figured out, it normally doesnt work out that way. I got faith that I just keep my head to the grindstone and keep working hard, things will work out.
Patience is the key, McCown said. I always tell young guys, Hopefully youre going to get an opportunity to play at some point. So its not necessarily if, but when. And when, are you ready?
I watch [Petty and Hackenberg] work every day. They work really hard on the practice field, in the film room. So I do believe that, wholeheartedly, when their next opportunity comes, theyre going to be better for it. I still have a lot of confidence in those guys, and look forward to when it is their time.
But for now, entering the final quarter of this season, it continued to be McCowns time.