The New York Jets have one of the most complete quarterback rooms in recent memory and with three solid options, there’s plenty of reason to have optimism for 2018. But will one emerge as a legitimate starting QB and team leader?
The New York Jets quarterback competition is already proving to be one of the most fascinating and intriguing positional battles in the entire NFL. Despite the fact that it’s only mid-June, Gang Green’s QB room has taken center stage as the contest between three compelling candidates that grasped the attention of the media and fans alike.
Rest assured there is no Aaron Rodgers on this team. Nor is there a Drew Brees. What is present, however, are three separate contenders all at very different points in their respective careers with varying, compelling backstories that have come together to create one ultra-unique dynamic.
First, we have the experienced veteran of the bunch. Josh McCown has been around the block more than a few times and his storied NFL journey has been well-documented to this point. McCown will be 39-years-old at the start of the 2018 regular season and he will be playing his 16th season as a professional football player. The Jets are the elder statesman’s 10th NFL franchise and 11th professional team if you count his brief one-year stint with the Hartford Colonials of the United Football League.
However, despite these years of experience, McCown managed to put together the best season of his entire career last year at the ripe age of 38. He was no world-beater, but McCown played steady and led the Jets to an overachieving record of 5-8, all the while setting career highs in completions, passing yards, passing touchdowns, and completion percentage before suffering a broken left hand which ended his season prematurely.
Still, that 2017 campaign will always be special for McCown and the Jets.
With McCown, New York has a ready-made starter who can serve as a mentor for the young Sam Darnold while maintaining his role as “Uncle Josh,” or simply the leader on and off the field.
Now, more about this Sam Darnold kid.
Widely regarded as one of the best quarterback prospects in this past draft class, Darnold excelled during his time at USC and was thought by most to be a lock for the No. 1 overall pick for months leading up to the draft. However, nothing is ever a lock in the crazy world of sports.
Darnold fell right into the Jets laps after the Browns and Giants both went in different directions and with the third overall pick, Gang Green selected the former Rose Bowl champion to be their unquestioned quarterback of the future.
At just 21-years old, Darnold will undoubtedly need some time to develop and become the player he has the potential to be. He struggled with protecting the football during his college career as the former four-star recruit tossed 13 interceptions in 14 games during his sophomore season and led the nation in fumbles lost with eight.
Still, turnover issues are correctable. There’s a long list of very successful NFL quarterbacks who had turnover concerns coming out of college ranging from Matthew Stafford to more recently Deshaun Watson. Darnold will have his fair share of mistakes early on in his career but with a mentor like McCown early-on, the future looks bright for Sam Darnold and the Jets.
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But what about the third member of this quarterback trio? McCown is the veteran mentor serving as the bridge to the young, future starter in Darnold. Where does that leave Teddy Bridgewater?
Bridgewater doesn’t exactly have a set role on the team which is what makes his story all the more enthralling. The former Minnesota Vikings signal-caller has been through some pretty substantial ups and downs in his career so far. Although he is just 25-years old, Bridgewater has gone from first-round pick and Pro Bowler who looked like the future of the Vikings franchise to a castoff and afterthought following a devastating knee injury that cost him essentially two full seasons and nearly his football career.
No one knows if he will ever return to form or if he will ever be as effective as the 2015 version of himself but one thing’s for certain: he’s out to prove anyone who doubts him wrong.
It’s a testament to Bridgewater’s grit and determination that he has even been able to make it to this point after many speculated he would never play again. That determination and motivation should serve him well as he continues to try and carve out a role for himself in the NFL.
But where does that leave him with the Jets?
The short answer is that no one really knows and it’s hard to even speculate at this point. With his encouraging performance thus far in OTAs it’s hard to say where Bridgewater really stands with the team. What we do know is that the Louisville product is a valuable asset to the Jets in nearly every conceivable way.
He is an incredible presence in the locker room who serves as a veteran mentor and young player with upside all in one. He could be a potential trade option or be used in a similar role to McCown as a bridge quarterback to pave the way for Darnold.
There’s no loss for the Jets with the Teddy Bridgewater experiment. Either he performs well and one of the two options above become feasible or he sadly fails to show progress and the Jets simply cut their losses and eat the $1 million he is guaranteed.
Whatever the case winds up being, Jets fans should feel pretty comfortable with the quarterback trio at the team’s disposal. They may each have remarkably different stories and serve vastly different roles on the team, but they all share a common goal with the desire to make this team better and compete at a high level. Perhaps most importantly, you’d be hard-pressed to find a group of more inspiring, high-character leaders in any NFL locker room today.
The dynamic between these three will continue to progress as OTA’s finish up and training camp gets underway, but Jets fans should rest easy knowing that their team has the franchise’s most complete quarterback room in quite some time.