Jets head coach Todd Bowles announced today that Ryan Fitzpatrick will start Sunday against the Buffalo Bills. Rookie Christian Hackenberg, the team's second-round pick from Penn State, will back up Fitzpatrick in the team's final game of the 2016 season.
"He was the backup and now he's the starter," Bowles said of Fitzpatrick.
Serving as the Jets' No. 2 QB each of the past three weeks, Fitzpatrick finished the team's Week 15 and Week 16 contests against the Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots as Bryce Petty left with chest and shoulder injuries, respectively. Petty was placed on injured reserve Monday after he suffered a torn labrum in his left shoulder this past Saturday against the Patriots when attempting to tackle CB Malcolm Butler. Bowles had planned to give Petty the final quarter of the season, but now he'll turn to back to Fitzpatrick. Hackenberg will get valuable reps during the week and be ready to go if called upon.
"You don't leap-frog people to start playing. If Fitz gets hurt and he gets to play, you'll see him play. But if not, it doesn't mean anything plus or minus," Bowles said of Hackenberg. "It's just we're not playing him this year. We had a plan for him going in when we drafted him. He's taken a lot of reps in practice. If Fitz gets hurt, he'll go in there and play. If Fitz doesn't, he won't play, but he's ready to play. He'll be ready to play. Obviously with experience comes better play and you'll see a bunch of things, but putting him in right now isn't going to hurt or help him."
While both Fitzpatrick and Hackenberg won't meet with the media until Wednesday, wide receiver Brandon Marshall said the 34-year-old veteran signalcaller gives the Jets their best shot at victory on Sunday.
"Let the kid sit there and continue to learn from Fitz, sit in a room and approach the offseason with guns blazing and he'll be fine," Marshall said of Hackenberg. "You don't need to throw the kid out there right now. Fitz is our best option to win. We're trying to win the ball game."
In preseason action, the 6'4", 228-pound Hackenberg completed 17 of 47 (36.2%) for 159 yards with 1 TD and 2 INTs. The Jets' plan all along was to use this year as red-shirt season for the Penn State product.
"Fitz had a great year and Geno was coming back. The idea was to put him on the shelf regardless and let him get better going in," Bowles said. "He wasn't going to come in and then beat out the two guys that were ahead of him or three guys that were ahead of him. He can use some mechanical work and he got better as the year went on. That will only show in a game, but putting him out there in the last game and say(ing) his mechanics aren't great or his mechanics aren't bad doesn't make any sense either."
After starting the year with four quarterbacks, the Jets are down to two. In a light-hearted moment with the media, Bowles joked that they might need five quarterbacks. But when serious, Bowles said the team won't make any QB additions before the weekend. Fitzpatrick finishes the year as he started in Week 1, commanding the offense at MetLife Stadium. Hackenberg will be the backup for the first time in his NFL career.
"There's no argument one way or the other. He's the backup. If Fitz gets hurt or if the game gets out of hand, one way or the other and we want to put him in the fourth quarter, then we'll put him in," Bowles said. "If not, he won't play."
The Jets Kicked Off the Final Practice Week of the Season on Tuesday