McCown gives Jets a year to lose games quietly and develop future

Christian Hackenberg was eight years old and Bryce Petty was 12 when Josh McCown made his first NFL start in 2003.

Now, the three quarterbacks will share the same team for what will most likely be just one season. The New York Jets announced the signing of McCown Monday.

With Ryan Fitzpatrick not being a viable re-signing option and Geno Smith trading in green for Big Blue, the 2017 Jets needed a short-term veteran quarterback to send onto the field to get knocked around in what will likely be a lost season. The team has one of the least talented rosters in the NFL. McCown is its guy, and it won’t inspire Super Bowl chants among Jets fans, but it should set the team up for a less dramatic year of quarterback play and a better future.

Start with this: We still know nothing of Hackenberg’s development after he “redshirted” his rookie season, but some believe his inability to see the field is a bad omen — especially considering Fitzpatrick and Smith both battled injuries in 2016. Then there’s Petty, whom we did see plenty of, but does not look like he has a successful career as a starter in his future.

The Jets were interested in other, younger and simply better quarterbacks at one time, such as Mike Glennon (now with Chicago) and Tyrod Taylor (who stayed in Buffalo after all). They visited with Chase Daniel Monday before signing McCown, and they reportedly will have to cancel a meeting with Smokin’ Jay Cutler.

With that laid out on the table, you can see why McCown was both the Jets’ smartest and least exciting free agent option. One sentence answers both: The Jets don’t care about winning a ton of games in 2017.

McCown is reported to be signing a one-year, $6 million contract with another $7 million available in incentives. The Jets were not about to pay a ton of money for whomever they signed; they were searching for a one-year bridge. Cutler and Colin Kaepernick (whom the Jets were tellingly never interested in) would have been too expensive, too “flashy” as formerly big-name stars.

Meanwhile, Daniel is McCown-lite, a journeyman himself for a shorter period of time, but he’s less proven, having thrown only 78 career attempts in eight years. He would have been too risky. At least McCown, mediocre as he is, will save the team some tabloid embarrassment by possibly throwing a few more touchdowns than interceptions, thereby allowing the Jets to bring along Hackenberg when they think he’s ready.

No, McCown is not perfect for this team. He will turn 38 before the start of the 2017 season and he won’t be around much longer than that. Kaepernick or Cutler making a temporary home in New York would be “exciting,” to put it nicely, but the Jets don’t need excitement next year. Excitement is only for good teams. This is a team in transition, which won’t be competitive until they either secure a better quarterback in the 2018 draft like Sam Darnold or work a miracle on Hackenberg.

So don’t call it tanking, fans. With Josh McCown under center for most or all of 2017, the Jets will try, and they’re bound to win a few games. But the journeyman is just a placeholder to allow better options to develop. That is OK.

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