On Tuesday the New York Jets announced they were re-signing QB Josh McCown to a one-year deal and giving him the starting job. Did we hear that right?
In case you are late to the party, the New York Jets missed out on their first choice at quarterback this offseason. Kurt Cousins plans to sign a fully guaranteed, record-setting three-year, $84 million contract with the Vikings on Thursday, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. By average annual value ($28M per season), Cousins will become the highest-paid player in NFL history.
Opinions about Cousins went both ways for Jets fans. However, the long-time Jets fans immediately wondered what reaction Mike Maccagnan and company would have. What plans did this regime, who is getting a second chance at rebuilding the franchise after messing up the first time, have in place?
Later in the day, a league source told Chris Mortensen that former Vikings starter Teddy Bridgewater plans to sign a one-year contract worth $5 million with the Jets when the new league year officially begins (March 14). Once again, most paying attention were aware that this was part of the Jets backup plan to Cousins.
However, the shocker came later in the day when the Jets announced that McCown would be the starter.
Excuse me? I can understand why such news would make long-time Jets fans in need of more therapy.
What does this mean?
McCown, who will be 39 in 2018, started 11 games for the Jets last season. With not much being expected of him, McCown led the Jets well. In 13 starts for the team, he finished with a 5-8 record. While that isn’t respectable by most standards, this is the same QB that had won just two of his previous 22 starts from 2014-16. McCown put up career highs with 18 touchdowns, 2,926 passing yards and a completion percentage of 67.3. He averaged 21.0 air yards on his touchdowns, highest of any QB with 10-plus TDs last season.
While those numbers look OK, McCown’s biggest impact was the veteran leadership he provided at a position that has historically been very unstable. Bringing him back was always a good option. However, why automatically announce that he is the starter? This seems to go against the overall team philosophy that this regime has shown by trusting the roster to younger players and letting them learn.
Before throwing your hands up in defeat, remember that the Jets still have the sixth overall selection in the 2018 NFL Draft. That also sends our attention to their signing of Bridgewater. This is a move that could really work out well.
Bridgewater has thrown one pass in two years after he suffered a severe knee injury during training camp in 2016. He was taken 32nd overall by the Vikings in the 2014 NFL Draft and helped lead the team to the postseason in 2015. He’s just 25 and has completed 64.7 percent of his passes since 2014, 10th best in the league over that span.
For those who don’t remember, Bridgewater was showing traits of a franchise quarterback who was going to lead the Vikings for a long time before his injury. After leading the Vikings to a 6-6 record in 12 starts in 2014, he led Minnesota to an 11-5 record and the NFC North title in 2015.
Bridgewater offers the Jets something they desperately need at the most important position in professional sports. First, he has talent. Second, he is young. Third, he has already shown that he is capable of leading an offense and improving. The last thing that Bridgewater offers the Jets is the biggest unknown that can really help. He has watched and learned the last two seasons sitting on the sideline.
Now that Maccagnan has set the course starting with these two quarterbacks, it is time to see what else he does with this roster. Trusting the process when you have been burned can be hard for a Jets fan.
In the long run, not overspending for Cousins could be the best decision this franchise ever made. However, the question still remains why did the Jets name McCown their starting quarterback?
In this situation, there are many reasons to ponder. Perhaps the Jets want to set the example of a consistent presence that has previously led the franchise at the position. In the best case scenario, this gives Bridgewater and if the Jets choose to go that route, the sixth pick in the NFL draft something to shoot for. Perhaps the Jets thought that not making that intention known would put undue pressure on a quarterback that hasn’t played for two seasons.
Whatever the reasons are, there is a bigger reason for optimism. Time will tell.