The Jets ended last season without this season’s starting quarterback on their roster. It was time for Ryan Fitzpatrick and Geno Smith, free agents both, to depart the organization, and the team does not perceive either of its young quarterbacks, Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg, as ready yet for the job — maybe just for now, maybe at all.
And so, as the Jets evaluate their internal options, they moved to sign a veteran, Josh McCown, who will serve as much as a mentor as a placeholder — for Petty, Hackenberg or, once again, someone who does not yet play for the Jets.
After visiting the Jets on Friday and Saturday, McCown, who turns 38 in July, agreed to a one-year deal worth $6 million guaranteed, making him the favorite to open the season as the starter.
The Jets are known to have expressed interest in at least two other free agents — Jay Cutler and Chase Daniel — but in turning to McCown, they are at once tacitly acknowledging their rebuilding and revisiting their recent past. McCown is an older version of Fitzpatrick — sharp and tough but inconsistent and erratic, with a list of admirers as long as his transaction history.
The Jets are the eighth N.F.L. team for McCown, who began his career with the Arizona Cardinals in 2002 and has completed 59.1 percent of his passes with 79 touchdowns and 69 interceptions. He went 1-10 for the Cleveland Browns the last two seasons — and 1-10 for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2014 — and a cynic might say that his lack of success makes him a natural fit with the Jets, who went 5-11 last season as they missed the playoffs for a sixth consecutive season.
But McCown is well regarded around the league for his professionalism, if not for his durability…