The New York Jets may have a 2016 quarterback competition, after all -- for the No. 2 job.
After what amounted to a red-shirt rookie season, Bryce Petty apparently will get a shot to become the primary backup, raising questions about the future of starter-turned-backup Geno Smith. On Wednesday, coach Todd Bowles gave Smith a lukewarm endorsement.
"Right now, Geno is our backup quarterback," Bowles said at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis.
At the same time, he didn't rule out the possibility of Petty winning the No. 2 job. Asked if he'd be comfortable with Petty in that role, Bowles said, "That will be determined in the preseason and how well he does in summer camp and spring."
Mind you, Petty has no regular-season experience -- not a single snap in a game. It would be a leap of faith to give him that job, but the current administration drafted Petty last year in the fourth round and it naturally wants him to succeed. Thing is, it's hard to develop a quarterback when he's stuck in the No. 3 role. Players need reps to improve, and reps are at a premium under the current NFL practice rules. Petty needs to play -- a lot -- and he won't get better sitting behind Ryan Fitzpatrick (assuming he returns) and Smith, whom the organization may consider a road block.
"I think he has developed. I think he's still developing," Bowles said of Petty. "We'll see when preseason and camp rolls around next year, how much he's developed and whether the game has slowed down for him a little bit. We know he's a talent and can throw. He's bright and he's learning and he will keep progressing forward."
As noted after the season, I think it would be a mistake to make a rash decision on Smith, who, despite his faults, is an experienced player with an affordable cap charge ($1.6 million). Thanks to IK Enemkpali's fist, he never got a chance to play in Chan Gailey's offense. Smith was the presumptive starter a year ago, so it really wouldn't make a whole lot of sense to discard him unless they get something in return.
For now, though, Petty will get every chance to climb one spot on the depth chart.