It wasn’t exactly Ali putting down Frazier, but New York Jets quarterback Josh McCown certainly walked and talked like the team’s starting quarterback during a 7-3 preseason victory over the Tennessee Titans.
All the accoutrements of an entrenched starter were there, starting with the fact that Todd Bowles treated the 38-year-old journeyman like he was the guy, giving him just one series before pulling the plug and putting the bubble wrap on him.
And McCown’s one opportunity was a successful drive featuring a 53-yard completion to Robby Anderson, a 15-yard hookup to Jalin Marshall and a four-yard touchdown pass to Charone Peake to culminate things. The only miscue for McCown during his short night was an incompletion, stemming from a dropped football.
“That was my goal going into it and I think everybody, collectively, it was what we hoped and planned for it to go. And so when it did, it was like, ‘Well perfect,’” McCown said. “That’s how I envisioned it going. When a team defers and they give you the ball first, that’s what you should do. You should score.”
With McCown’s vision board validated, looking at the final score, you don’t have to be math major to figure out that the Jets never scored again with Christian Hackenberg at the controls, the other participant in perhaps the worst QB competition in recent memory.
By McCown’s estimation, in eight possessions you certainly should score, but Hackenberg finished 0-for-8 in his chances, playing “Checkdown Charlie” for the most part. The numbers, 18 of 25 passes for 127 yards, didn’t look awful, but the efficacy sure did.
The bottom line to the game of football is a pretty simple one, and when you can’t score points, it’s a problem. Moreso, the play-calling was evidence that first-year offensive coordinator John Morton was being very cautious with Hackenberg, keeping things simple as to not destroy the second-year player’s confidence early in the process.
That’s another clear signal that there is no sense of urgency to get the Penn State signal caller up to speed for Week 1 of the regular season.
With a 2-20 record in his last 22 NFL starts, it’s hard to imagine McCown getting through 16 games with the skill-position players that the Jets have assembled, so Hackenberg should get an opportunity at some point.
Barring injury, however, that’s not going to come until the second half of the season ,when perhaps Morton will remove the training wheels and throw Hackenberg into the deep end of the pool.
To get to that point, however, Hackenberg is going to need plenty of reps during the rest of the preseason in order to get more comfortable with the system, meaning McCown should continue to get a significant starter’s treatment. Maybe a quarter of action in Game 2, playing into the third quarter in the all-important dress-rehearsal game and a seat on the bench during the final preseason game.
McCown was treated like the starter against the Titans for good reason: He is the starter. Expect that to continue moving forward for the rest of the preseason.
-John McMullen is a national football columnist for FanRagSports.com. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen
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