Will Jets ever find an answer at QB?

New York Jets quarterbacks, from left, Josh McCown, Christian Hackenberg and Bryce Petty jog during the team's organized team activities at its NFL football training facility, Tuesday, May 23, 2017, in Florham Park, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Credit: Julio Cortez

Credit: Julio Cortez

New York Jets quarterbacks, from left, Josh McCown, Christian Hackenberg and Bryce Petty jog during the team's organized team activities at its NFL football training facility, Tuesday, May 23, 2017, in Florham Park, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Forgive the Jets fan who has seen this scene enough, who surveyed the team's quarterback situation during the team's first official day of offseason action Tuesday and saw one veteran journeyman in the middle, a young quarterback over each shoulder, a wide open competition in the foreground and a 100 yards of questions in the background.

Former starter Ryan Fitzpatrick may have given way to free-agent signee Josh McCown, and Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg may have a more legitimate shot at actually pushing McCown than either ever did with Fitzpatrick, but another year has done little else to change an agonizingly familiar story in Florham Park.

Or has it?

Yes, we've seen this play before with the Jets, but that doesn't mean it still can't be a good one. The difference is in McCown, who as the new leading man made a pretty good debut.

Though head coach Todd Bowles and his first year offensive coordinator John Morton made it clear this is a wide open competition that will give each of the three quarterbacks equal reps with the first-team starters, Tuesday was the veteran McCown's turn to lead the way. Making judgments on how he threw the ball or how well he knows the offense make little sense as players ran around in shorts and jerseys and didn't actually tackle each other, but watching him command his huddle was more than fair game.

And in that regard, McCown was a hit.

He was vocal, enthusiastic, involved and impassioned. He was fist-pumping after successful plays and quick with instructions after failed ones, barking orders from deep in the pocket when teammates didn't finish plays properly or celebrating up the field when they did. He was gracious in interviews about the coming competition, crediting both Petty and Hackenberg for their hard work, preparation and interest in learning, but gave no quarter on the notion he doesn't want to be the starter.

"A great guy," Bowles described him. "He understands a lot about football, he's always trying to learn, he wants to be a coach when it's over. He's easy to talk to, wants to know both sides of the ball, wants to learn. You can see it with everyone on offense. He talks to the receivers, to the O-linemen, to the tight ends. Obviously with his years in the league you expect that from a guy like that, so it's been good so far."

For so long, it seemed the same was true with Fitzpatrick, but a charmed 2015 season dissolved into an ugly 2016 one, a 5-11 disaster rife with problems from locker room discord to quarterback disillusionment. Defensive end Sheldon Richardson peeled yet another layer away on that dysfunction Tuesday when he declared "15 reasons" locker room chemistry is better this year, a direct shot at former teammate Brandon Marshall, who wore No. 15.

Yet as much as Marshall could be a difficult teammate, great when the going is good but tough when the going got rough, it's unfair to put it all on him. Just listen to Fitzpatrick and his comments from his new locker room in Tampa Bay on Tuesday for a reminder he wasn't always the best sport either.

In describing last season's Jets' quarterback carousel as a game of "musical chairs" in which team brass "pulled a chair out from under" him when they decided to bench him in favor of Geno Smith (only to be forced to go back to him after Smith sustained a season-ending knee injury, before benching him again in favor of Petty, who also got hurt), Fitzpatrick conveniently ignored his own role in the familiar childhood party game.

He was terrible last year, as likely to throw a pick as he was a completion, and worse, as likely to throw a teammate quietly under the bus as he was to play the role of mentor. McCown, who knows he's been able to hang around for 15 years in large part thanks to the lessons he learned under teammates like Hall of Famer Kurt Warner or incumbent starter Jon Kitna, seems genuinely interested in passing that torch to Petty and Hackenberg.

"Hopefully for them this can be me saying, 'This is what it's supposed to look like or this is how it works for me,' " McCown said. "That's what I learned from guys like Kurt and Jon. I feel like when I'm talking with Christian and I'm talking to Bryce, I feel like I'm talking to myself back then and I'm saying, 'I wish I'd known this or I wish I'd known that.' "

Again, forgive the Jets fan who has heard this all before, who understands as deeply as any NFL watcher across the nation how important it is to have a quarterback, how miserable it is when you don't, how difficult the search can be. Forgive the Jets fan who's seen this scene before too, too familiar in the ways of quarterback uncertainty.

But just because it's the same doesn't mean it can't be different too, and if McCown gets the team through a decent year and helps their future by mentoring Petty or Hackenberg to help either become an effective starter, this plan will have worked.

If they don't develop and he bridges the divide to a stronger 2018 quarterback draft class, well that might just work out too.

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