In defense of Bryce Petty
By Hillary Garza
Before anyone is quick to want the New York Jets to part ways with quarterback Bryce Petty in the offseason, don’t forget the messy situation he was thrown into which limited his true potential.
When the clock strikes 0.00 at the conclusion of Sunday’s game against the New England Patriots, no it won’t be New Years quite yet, but the 2017 New York Jets season officially comes to an end. Rest assured though a whole new season begins, it’s called the “offseason.” It also marks the last time we’ll see a number of players in Jets green, which is par for the course as all teams experience significant turnover from one year to the next.
A whole array of personnel moves await the decision makers at One Jets Drive, starting with the age-old question (for the Jets at least), who will be next year’s starting quarterback? Make no mistake, it is THE question of the offseason.
Is this the year the Jets finally draft a franchise quarterback? Does the general manager Mike Maccagnan, brimming with confidence after signing a new two-year extension, throw caution to the wind and enter the high-stakes poker match with the Cleveland Browns, New York Giants, and potentially others for the opportunity to pick Josh Rosen, Sam Donald, or Josh Allen, who most experts predict will be the first three quarterbacks selected in the draft?
Would Maccagnan be willing to pay a king’s ransom, i.e., possibly the next two years’ number one picks to move up and select one of the top three quarterbacks? So many questions and there’s so much that could happen between now and May 2018, we’ll just sit tight and let things play out.
All that said, regrettably, it doesn’t appear that the latest sacrificial lamb, er, I mean Jets quarterback, Bryce Petty, will ever be given a “fair” opportunity to compete for the starting job. That means Sunday is quite likely Petty’s last game in a Jets uniform as well. If that is indeed the case, then I would assert that Petty has been unfairly judged and was never provided a realistic chance to prove himself as a potential future starting quarterback with the Jets.
To be clear, this is not meant to sound like a pity party for Petty. He’s had opportunities, yes, but his lot in life as Jets quarterback reminds me of the basketball fan who’s pulled out of the stands at an NBA game for a chance to win $10,000 dollars. Wow, great opportunity! Except the fan has one chance to hit a half-court shot in front of thousands of people. The odds of success? Very slim, as we all know. The same can be said with Petty because of the cards he’s been dealt. It’s not really an opportunity, in other words, if he’s evaluated to the highest degree with every single play, pass, run, etc. Not only is that a lot of pressure, but it’s unrealistic.
A quick scan of the latest NFL team offensive statistics shows the Jets in the bottom third of all major categories, i.e., team offense (22nd in the league), passing offense (24th), scoring offense (22nd), and total first downs (27th). There is not one Jets player who made the Pro Bowl. If the Jets could point to anything substantially positive this year it would be the defensive improvements. But offensively? Yeah, it’s been pretty offensive. There have been some flashes, Robby Anderson in particular, but the Jets offense was anemic for the entire season. This despite the previous quarterback veteran quarterback Josh McCown arguably having his best season ever. Petty’s struggles, in other words, are understandable given that the Jets offense has been lackluster.
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Oh, and some experts predicted the Jets would go 0-16 so let’s not lose sight of the fact that the 2017 version of the Jets was just not that good.
Alas, Petty played the good soldier, taking the helm when Josh McCown broke his hand. But Petty’s first start was during Week 14 against a top-tier team the New Orleans Saints, on the road no less! The point is that backup quarterbacks should not be judged in the same vein as the starting quarterback. Especially one that has to begin the season in Week 14! Surely it takes time to build a rapport with receivers, to get in rhythm with the offense, timing, etc.
Regardless, Petty is constantly being evaluated with the notion that if immediate success isn’t achieved, then he’s not the right quarterback to lead this team in the future. I found that an odd suggestion because he’s never really been given a “fair” opportunity. This means starting the season from the very beginning as the intended starting quarterback, and afforded all the opportunities that prospective starting quarterbacks receive during training camp, which hasn’t been the case with Petty.
Now some may argue, hey wait a minute, Petty’s been given plenty opportunity and time and time again he has failed. But I would counter that Petty has too often drawn the short straw with his assignments; the circumstances in which he’s had to start have been extreme.
For example, the Jets were completely dysfunctional for the entire 2016 season. Petty’s first start occurred in Week 10 and his assignment was a) not to embarrass the team any further, and b) don’t make any dumb mistakes. But to win the game? Not likely. Arguably, Petty was thrust into a situation where he was expected to put out the fire that others on the team had caused. He played decently at home against the Los Angeles Rams but was benched the next game, and then brought back in Week 13, this time in the second half of a Monday night game debacle in which Jets were getting clobbered by the Indianapolis Colts in perhaps one of the ugliest prime-time games in Jets history. When Petty started the second half, the Jets were already down 24-3.
In Week 15 at home against the Miami Dolphins, Petty was sabotaged by his offensive lineman, who barely bothered to block two of the fiercest defensive lineman in the NFL—Cameron Wake and Ndamukong Suh—from literally sandwiching him. Petty was knocked out of the game. He deserved credit for bouncing back the next week, starting against the New England Patriots, and was on his way to closing out the season before suffering a fluke injury that abruptly ended it.
So these were the “opportunities” Petty had, which were by and large quite the opposite; rather Petty was in a no-win situation and I fear that Petty will never really get the opportunity to lead a Jets team under better circumstances.
Look, I think there comes a time when player and team should part ways and at this point in his career Petty deserves a real chance to prove himself. Although I am reluctant to see him leave, it’s probably best.
I know that Bryce has worked hard to put himself even in this position to be considered an NFL-caliber quarterback. Remember, Petty was a fourth-round pick and outplayed a second-round pick, Christian Hackenberg, two years in a row. Let’s not beat around the bush, all things being equal, a second-round pick is expected to outperform a fourth-round pick more often than not and thus the chances of sticking around the highly-competitive NFL is higher for second round picks.
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So let’s give credit where credit is due. In other words, Bryce Petty is not your ordinary fourth-round pick and the Jets had enough confidence to hand him the ball as a starter on multiple occasions in the last two years. Not bad at all. Indeed, Petty has acquitted himself quite well during his entire career with the Jets but I don’t think the same can be said for the way the Jets have treated Petty. So his time with the Jets is likely coming to an end and based on his commitment, toughness, and dedication he will likely shine somewhere else next year. It’s just too bad that it will likely be with another team and not the Jets.