By signing Josh McCown, the Jets have extended one of the NFL’s most enduring storylines: The Veteran Quarterback As Valuable Mentor. The team’s fans are no doubt delighted.
The addition of McCown gives the Jets someone with the unique skillset of a guy who’s been around. McCown will compete for the job, and he’ll maybe even start the season, but his most important role will be to just be there for Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg, recent draft picks who are entering their third and second seasons, respectively.
Just look at the kind of NFL experience McCown brings to the table:
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The Jets are uncanny with this stuff. The Veteran Quarterback As Valuable Mentor really is a tried-and-true approach for a Jets franchise that has drafted 11 QBs since 1999, more than any team in the NFL.
Let’s take a look at how well this strategy has paid off for the Jets just in the last 10 years.
The most important component, though, is [Ryan] Fitzpatrick, a pro’s pro with an easy inclusive demeanor. He was just seen at Madison Square Garden with Petty, veteran center Nick Mangold and slot receiver Eric Decker at a New York Rangers playoff game. He’s exactly the sort of personality you want at the position even if his performance indicates a career journeyman.
For [Christian] Hackenberg’s purposes, that’s huge. People around the Jets believe he will act as the perfect mentor for the rookie, first because that’s his natural personality, second because he knows he’s likely not destined for a long career in New York, even if re-signed.
[Bryce] Petty has the requisite skill set to make it if he’s not rushed. His arm is obviously good. Fitzpatrick has served a personal mentor/tutor to help the rookie better understand the NFL game.
The broad analysis before and after Michael Vick’s signing with the Jets in March—from ferocious competitor to too content, from glitzy playmaker to too diminished, from a clear, sincere makeover to still not worthy of forgiveness—helps cement Vick as NFL legend, pop culture fixture and now, as [Geno] Smith’s mentor, muse and backup.
[Greg] McElroy’s influence and impact on rookie Geno Smith has been pivotal as the organization makes a transition at quarterback. The three-year veteran has been part-sounding board, part instructor in his mentorship since general manager John Idzik drafted Smith in the second round four months ago.
Although Smith and Mark Sanchez have a good relationship, the rookie’s reliance on McElroy, who has been removed from the Jets’ starting quarterback competition, has been invaluable in his development.
McElroy says Sanchez has taught him a great deal about playing quarterback, and that he’ll try to emulate Sanchez this week.
“Everything that I’ve learned at this position in this league has been from Mark,” McElroy said, in comments distributed by the Jets’ PR staff. “He’s the guy that I’ve seen every day. Every day that I’ve been an NFL player, I’ve been looking up to him. I’ve been observing him and trying to follow after his lead. I’ve been watching him. I understand how to play this game because of him.”
Like any pro athlete, [Mark] Brunell told me he’d rather be the starter—“every backup at every position would rather be playing”—but he is at peace with his role as Mark Sanchez’ mentor.
“I see it as a mentoring role,” said Brunell, who turns 40 in September. “He’s a great kid, a hard worker. He has ability, and this is a critical year for him.”
Brunell sees a little of himself in Mark Sanchez.
“What Sanchez needs most is a mentor”
“When we acquired Brett [Favre], we knew we would get everything he had. He took the time to mentor younger players and his competitiveness and enthusiasm at practice and during games was contagious,” [GM Mike] Tannenbaum said.
“Chad [Pennington] has been an awesome mentor for me—before I was playing and especially now that I’m playing,” [Kellen] Clemens said. “It hasn’t been awkward or any of the other negative things that it could’ve been.”
The Jets have two playoff appearances dating back to 2007, and none since 2010. Imagine where they’d be without all that mentoring.