Bowles backs away from commitment of Fitzpatrick as clear-cut starter

ByRich Cimini ESPN logo
Tuesday, November 22, 2016

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Jets' quarterback situation is more muddled than ever.

Coach Todd Bowles, who went into Sunday's game saying Ryan Fitzpatrick is the clear-cut starter when healthy, backed away from that commitment after the Jets' 9-6 loss to the Los Angeles Rams at MetLife Stadium.

Bowles left open the possibility that Bryce Petty, who made his first NFL start, could remain the starter when the team returns from its bye week to face the New England Patriots.

"We will evaluate everything next week," Bowles said. "We have time to evaluate it. I'm not naming anybody going forward. I'll look at the film and see how Ryan is feeling, and go from there."

Fitzpatrick sat out because he "wasn't completely healthy," according to Bowles. He suffered a mild knee sprain last week, but still dressed as the No. 2 quarterback. Bowles informed both quarterbacks on Saturday he was starting Petty.

"I wanted to start, but there's a lot of things that go into the decision," Fitzpatrick said. "I'm a competitor, I want to be out there. In terms of how smart it was, I always want to be out there, I don't care what's going on with me."

Petty, the fan favorite, excited the crowd with a 99-yard touchdown drive in the second quarter, punctuated by a 4-yard touchdown pass on a hook-and-lateral play.

But after that, Petty failed to spark the offense. In fact, the Jets punted on seven of their final nine possessions. A potential rally ended with 1:52 to play in the fourth quarter, when Petty was intercepted at midfield. It was his only turnover.

Despite a shaky performance (19-for-32, 163 yards), Petty said he'd like to remain the starter.

"Shoot, I wouldn't be a competitor if I didn't want another one," he said. "Same thing with Ryan. Ryan was upset that he wasn't playing in this game."

Petty, a fourth-round pick in 2015, entered the game with only four regular-season snaps on his resume -- all last week when he replaced Fitzpatrick temporarily. The previous No. 2 quarterback, Geno Smith, is out for the season with a knee injury.

Fitzpatrick didn't miss any days of practice, but he split first-team reps with Petty. Fitzpatrick, who signed a one-year, $12 million contract in July, has struggled. He leads the NFL with 13 interceptions, prompting the fan base to scream for Petty.

Now the call belongs to Bowles, who must weigh Fitzpatrick's health and the team's bleak standing. The Jets are 3-7, seemingly out of contention.

Bowles bristled when asked if Fitzpatrick would start if healthy.

"Like I said," he said, "we'll evaluate everything on Wednesday."

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