A sort of uncelebrated topic among Jets fans was the 2017 NFL Draft. The team had question marks surrounding the quarterback position. Eventually, they never took a quarterback in that draft.
Here is why the Jets never took a quarterback and what the consequences were:
The Jets Believed Hackenberg Was The Future Of The Team
Reading the start of this paragraph, you’re asking yourself “Was this really true at one point?”. The answer I give you is yes.
After free agency in 2017, the Jets had three quarterbacks on their roster. Veteran Josh McCown signed with the team in free agency to a one-year deal. Christian Hackenberg was drafted the previous year. A year prior, the Jets drafted Baylor product, Bryce Petty in the fourth round.
Strangely enough, neither Petty nor Hackenberg played in their rookie seasons.
Petty didn’t play his rookie season in 2015 because the Jets were fighting for a playoff spot amid a career-year for veteran journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick. The end result of that season was a 10-6 record with no playoffs. Skip ahead to 2016, Geno Smith and Bryce Petty remained on their rookie contracts. Meanwhile, Ryan Fitzpatrick started one of the most ridiculous contract holdouts anyone has ever seen.
Ryan Fitzpatrick’s Holdout
Fitzpatrick really wanted to re-sign with the Jets after the 2015 season. Both sides felt mutual. But during March free agency, neither side could come to an agreement. This led to both Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker missing OTAs, raising questions about whether both were in solidarity with their former teammate. Mind you, both Decker and Marshall outspokenly said they wanted Fitzpatrick to return to Gang Green. Then, a report came out saying Ryan Fitzpatrick wanted a one-year deal worth $12 million. In the end, the Jets caved and gave him exactly what he wanted.
After the ridiculous holdout, there were high expectations set for the Jets, coming off of a cinderella 2015 season. Those expectations didn’t necessarily pan out.
Petty Gets His Chance
The Jets started out 1-5 behind a terrible start to the season from Fitzpatrick. He infamously threw six interceptions in Week 3 against the Kansas City Chiefs and was benched in Week 6 on Monday Night Football against the Arizona Cardinals. This led to Geno Smith getting the start in Week 7 against the Baltimore Ravens. Eventually, Fitzpatrick reprised his role as starting quarterback after Smith got hurt. The Jets then won their Week 8 contest versus the Cleveland Browns, setting the team up at 3-5.
Week 9 was a competitive effort by the Jets but lost to the Dolphins by a score of 27-23. Fitzpatrick left the game hurt which was detrimental to his status for the next week. Here comes Bryce Petty.
In Week 10, the New York Jets faced off against the Los Angeles Rams at home. In his first start, Petty had a very pedestrian game, throwing for 163 yards, a touchdown, and an interception.
For the next two weeks, Ryan Fitzpatrick came back under center. But it wasn’t long before Bryce Petty returned under center. After a mediocre performance in the first half of Week 13’s contest against the Indianapolis Colts, Fitzpatrick was again benched for Petty. He threw for 135 yards, a touchdown, and two interceptions. The next week, Petty recorded his first win as a starter versus the San Francisco 49ers.
In essence, Jets fans didn’t see any signs of promise from Petty. Nor did they see any play from their second-round pick in Christian Hackenberg.
2017 Rolls In
After an underachieving and drama-filled 2016 season, the Jets let Ryan Fitzpatrick and Geno Smith walk in free agency. The Jets signed another journeyman quarterback in Josh McCown to a one-year contract. The quarterback room before the draft was Bryce Petty, Christian Hackenberg, and McCown. So far, no future answer answers.
The Jets worked out Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes before the draft and hosted him for a visit the day before the draft. UNC quarterback Mitchell Trubisky privately worked out for the Jets. Reportedly, Deshaun Watson wanted to be drafted by the Jets.
Neither of those three quarterbacks were drafted by the Jets. Mitchell Trubisky was drafted second overall by the Chicago Bears. The Jets then selected LSU safety, Jamal Adams, at sixth overall, passing on Mahomes and Watson. That decision should make the Jets have regrets about not filling in a starter quarterback.
Again, no future answers at quarterback are left for the Jets. Did either Christian Hackenberg or Bryce Petty prove to be the future starting quarterback for the Jets? What were the consequences of that decision to not selecting a quarterback in 2017?
The Jets named Josh McCown their starting quarterback for the 2017 season shortly before Week 1. McCown ended up playing approximately 12 games and had a solid season. Bryce Petty took over for McCown when he injured his hand in Week 13. From then on, Petty, yet again, failed to open eyes or raise eyebrows. Christian Hackenberg, who was once thought of the future as the Jets franchise, never saw a regular-season snap.
In 2018, the Jets signed quarterback Teddy Bridgewater in free agency and re-signed Josh McCown as well. Gang Green traded up for the third overall pick to select USC quarterback Sam Darnold. After the draft, Bryce Petty was cut and Christian Hackenberg was traded. But that’s not where it ends.
It turns out that Sam Darnold is not the future of this team either. Darnold has shown flashes of being great but heavily regressed in 2020.
Jamal Adams emerged as a superstar talent but was traded in 2020 after being unhappy during contract extension talks.
Highly-touted quarterback Deshaun Watson, who the Jets passed on, is now a top-five quarterback in the NFL. Watson actually has playoff experience and been to the playoffs twice.
Anyways, the former Clemson product was once in the same situation as Sam Darnold. Yes, Watson had a number one receiver in DeAndre Hopkins. Hopkins was traded away in early 2020. Watson has seen a lack of talent around him as well as organizational dysfunction. But, Watson is way ahead of Sam Darnold.
Yes, Darnold has seen the same things as Watson if not worse. But, what if I were to tell you the Jets could make up for their miss on Deshaun Watson?
Watson officially has demanded a trade out of Houston. The former Clemson product wanted Robert Saleh to be the Texans head coach but now he is the Jets coach. The Jets certainly have the inventory to trade for Deshaun Watson. It’s not even about making up for a mistake. It’s making the team relevant again.
This turned out better than most expected. Mahomes was supposed to be the third-best quarterback coming out of the 2017 NFL Draft. Now, he is the first best and the best quarterback in the NFL.
The Kansas City Chiefs showed how to develop an elite quarterback. Superb coaching and talent around you can give you an elite quarterback.
Neither the Texans nor the Jets had superior talent around their franchise quarterbacks. Mahomes is now on his way to possibly winning a second consecutive Super Bowl.