FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Josh McCown is ready to roll — even if he hasn’t played much this preseason.
Jets coach Todd Bowles announced Monday that McCown will start at quarterback in New York’s regular-season opener at Buffalo on Sept. 10, ending a strange training camp competition that included Christian Hackenberg and Bryce Petty.
“It’s a lot overall,” Bowles said of the decision to go with McCown. “He gives us the best chance to win right now.”
The 38-year-old McCown was the assumed starter when he signed a one-year, $6 million deal in March, and that never changed despite the fact he has played in just one series in a preseason game and led the Jets to a touchdown in the opener .
“Obviously, Coach Bowles had a plan going from back to the spring to now,” McCown said. “Every step of the way, we understood what was going on, and it was clear communication, and that’s the key.”
Hackenberg, a second-round pick last year, saw an increase in practice snaps and started the past two games. But he struggled mightily and made no real push to win the job over McCown.
“I’m looking forward to playing the best ball that I’ve ever played,” McCown said. “That’s my mindset.”
McCown is 2-20 over the past three seasons with Tampa Bay and Cleveland, and has 29 touchdown passes and 24 interceptions.
Despite the mediocre numbers, the Jets brought him in to be a mentor to the youngsters and provide the offense with an experienced presence.
The West Coast-style offense that new coordinator John Morton is using with the Jets is similar to the one McCown worked with in Chicago, where he had perhaps his best season in 2013.
Filling in for the injured Jay Cutler, McCown threw for 1,829 yards with 13 touchdowns and just one interception, and had a 109.0 quarterback rating.
“Josh brings experience, poise, leadership, confidence,” said quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates, who served in the same role with the Bears in 2012 when McCown was there.
“He’s played in this game and understands the West Coast system,” Bates added. “In the quarterbacks room, that’s our one goal, is to win on Sunday. And Josh gives us the best opportunity.”
The Jets held a curious competition, however, with the assumed No. 1 quarterback getting lots of snaps in preseason workouts and minicamp but then sitting for all but one series of the first three preseason games.
Bowles and Bates pointed to the experience of McCown, who is entering his 15th season and playing for his 10th NFL team. Meanwhile, the Jets wanted to see Hackenberg and Petty get as many reps as possible to get a better read on their progress.
“I’ll be ready to go,” McCown said.
This was considered a big summer for Hackenberg, who sat his entire rookie season and was deemed a project who needed to improve on his mechanics and other aspects of his game.
The former Penn State star has undoubtedly progressed quite a bit from a year ago, but clearly needs plenty more work before he can be considered a viable starting quarterback.
Hackenberg is 32 of 52 for 267 yards with one touchdown, but also had two interceptions returned for scores against the Giants last Saturday night.
“I didn’t hold anything back,” Hackenberg said. “I went out there and gave it everything I had. I felt like I got better in a lot of areas. I felt like I improved.”
Both Bowles and Bates agreed.
“He got better mentally,” Bowles said. “It wasn’t disappointing. It was a learning experience.”
Petty was considered the third option in the competition, and was solid in the preseason but left Saturday’s game against the Giants with a sprained left knee.
The third-year quarterback, who sported a brace on his knee during practice, avoided what appeared at first to be a serious injury. An MRI on Sunday revealed the injury to be a sprain, and Petty said he’ll make a push to play Thursday night against the Eagles.
“Every time I went in there, I really tried to make the most of it,” said Petty, who started four games last season for the Jets.
Petty added that he felt “without a doubt” he got a fair opportunity to win the starting job.
Bowles has not decided whom the No. 2 quarterback will be entering the regular season, so both Petty and Hackenberg will continue to compete for that spot on the depth chart.
But at least for the first game of the season, McCown will be the man under center for the Jets.
“You play this game to play, and as a competitor you want to be out there, so I was excited and thankful for the opportunity,” McCown said. “I look forward to getting out there in Week 1 and going to compete with these guys. It’ll be fun.”
McCown, a native of Jacksonville, Texas, said his thoughts were with his home state after hearing the reports of massive flooding in the Houston area.
“We all go through different things and I’m looking at a man push his two kids in an upside-down refrigerator as they’re floating,” he said. “I see that picture and I’m like, ‘Man, I get to come practice today. That’s the hardest thing I’m going to do today is go through a football practice. There are people dealing with real-life issues. When you see that, I think the best thing you can do when you can’t be a part of it is go out and practice your tail off and enjoy the moments that you have and be thankful.”
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