Why Bowles dragged it out for two weeks is anyone's guess, but let's put that aside and focus on the bigger story -- the ramifications. By declaring that Petty "has been the 2" all along and will remain Josh McCown's primary backup for the foreseeable future, the Jets' coach has created a scenario in which Hackenberg could spend most of the season on the bench -- maybe the entire year.
That would be bitterly disappointing for the Jets because one of the goals this season is -- was? -- to get a long look at Hackenberg, determining whether he's the quarterback of the future.
I think we know the answer to that question.
More importantly, I think the New York Jets know the answer. They probably knew it a year ago, but it was confirmed by Hackenberg's struggles in the preseason. Not only did he miss an opportunity to claim the starting job, but he also lost the backup job.
He was 0-2 in the Summer of Hack.
As a result, Hackenberg is at the bottom of the depth chart for the second straight year, certainly not what the Jets had in mind when they made him a second-round pick in 2016. Barring injuries, the only way he will start a game is if Bowles plays late-season leapfrog, moving him ahead of Petty just for the sake of seeing him in a game. By then, the season will be long gone.
The moment he turns to Hackenberg, Bowles is basically announcing he's moving on to 2018. No coach can do that in September or October and expect to maintain credibility in the locker room. I'm sure the pro-tanking faction of the fan base wants to see Hackenberg now, but what's the point? Why play a liability? Why buy a stock if you know the price is going to drop?
Trying to be kind, Bowles said Hackenberg is the No. 3 quarterback because "he’s the newest of the bunch. The other two guys have played in the league. Bryce played the year before him. [Hackenberg is] learning a new offense. He made progress. It doesn't say anything bad about him. He made progress. His chance will come, and he'll have time to fight again."
Bowles sounds as if he's committed to Petty as the No. 2, as he should be. He outplayed Hackenberg in the preseason and deserves to be the next man up. The only reason Petty was inactive in Week 1, according to the coach, was because his recently sprained knee wasn't 100 percent. If Bowles decides to bench McCown in the coming weeks, it would be for Petty, not Hackenberg. Nothing in practice, short of an injury, could change that.
All things considered, McCown has done a credible job leading the offense, but another couple of losses will fuel the pro-Petty campaign. Personally, I wouldn't consider a change until Week 5 at the earliest. If they're going to Cleveland at 0-4, it could be the right time to insert Petty, depending on how the offense is playing.
It's probably not a matter of "if," but "when" for Petty, who admittedly failed to capitalize on his opportunity late last season. There are shortcomings in his game -- e.g., reading coverages -- but he's a resilient competitor. He'll get a second chance. The bigger question is, will Hackenberg get one first?
Bowles was asked whether Hackenberg can be a productive starter, and his answer -- or nonanswer -- was telling.
"He has to work his way up there," he said. "He has a lot of football to play, and he has a lot of chances to grow. So as he gains experience, we'll see."