Throughout the rollercoaster of an NFL season, QB Bryce Petty's motto remains constant: Be a better quarterback and a better teammate than I was yesterday.
In his second year, Petty catapulted from third string to starter in just three weeks. In his pro debut Sunday against the Rams, the Baylor product completed 19 of his 32 passes for 163 yards, one touchdown and an interception. After digesting the film Monday, Petty said he's excited to learn from the experience and grow as a quarterback, reiterating that his performance in Sunday's 9-6 loss will not define him, his career or the 2016 season.
"There's definitely plays to be made there, and that's the hardest thing coming off that loss. The defense played such a good game, holding them to nine points," Petty told Eric Allen and Larry Hardesty on Inside the Jets. "You can't ask for anything more as an offense for the defense to do that. It's up to you as the quarterback because it kind of runs through you to move the ball and score points. It stung for me to sit back and know that didn't happen because there were definitely plays to be made there."
One of those missed opportunities came in the final moments of the first half when Petty almost struck Jets Nation with a case of déjà vu.
The 6'3", 230-pounder was looking for WR Robby Anderson down the visiting sideline, but the ball sailed just wide of Anderson's outstretched hands for what could have been a 68-yard touchdown. However, Petty connected with Anderson earlier in the game for a 52-yard completion, which led to a Bilal Powell touchdown to cap off a 99-yard scoring drive. The last time the Jets drove the length of the field came in 1995.
"Robby can roll. I guess coming from Baylor where we like to air it out a little bit, I like guys that say, 'Hey, you can't out-throw me,' '' Petty said. "Anytime you get a guy that says that, it's always fun. I don't know how it happened, but in the preseason we started hooking up deep every time. And that's a good feeling when you got a guy that as soon as you toss it up there, he's going to come down with it. He did great and has been doing great. His confidence has been growing every week. I'm really happy for him."
In the preseason, Petty and Anderson connected on three 50-plus yarders, two of which went for six. In Sunday's matchup, the 52-yard pitch and catch would be the biggest play of the day, as the Jets offense struggled in the second half, totaling 103 yards.
"When you step up a level and come to the NFL, there's two things," Petty said. "The athletes that you play on the defensive side of the football are unbelievable. You have defensive lineman that can cover all areas of the field. Two is those guys in the secondary think like you. Me and Gilly [S Marcus Gilchrist] are locker mates, but I've had a bunch of conversations after practice like, 'Dude, what the heck was that?'
"You combine scheme with those guys thinking like you do. Knowing on this particular defense this is where our weakness is, they know their weaknesses too. It's the whole intellectual part of the game. I've always said college is kind of like checkers and the NFL is like chess — it's two or three moves ahead. And that's what makes it fun, it makes it competitive because I can't beat you with just physicality. I have to beat you with my mind, so I'm ready for my mind to start picking it up."
It may take some time for Petty's "go" mentality, which was instilled at Baylor, to come to life in the NFL as he is still digesting the game. He was inactive for every game of the 2015 season, learning under the tutelage of QB Ryan Fiztpatrick, who he described as "the brother I never had." This season, Petty said he feels a lot more comfortable with a year under his belt, which the coaching staff has noticed.
"He was calm, he was poised when he was out there," head coach Todd Bowles said Monday on his conference call. "He threw a deep ball well, he understood his reads, he went where he was supposed to go. He hurried up some things, but that's going to happen when a first-time starter comes out there. He hurried some throws and missed a couple reads as well. But for the most part, other than one turnover, he played okay."
"Going in, Bryce worked really hard on studying the game plan and knowing what to do," QBs coach Kevin Patullo told the media Tuesday. "I think Coach Bowles talked about it a little bit yesterday with a bit of detail, but for a rookie, he did what he needed to do. And today we talked about it. There's a lot to learn, but I think he did some good things in there."
While the always smiling Petty has a lot of work to do if he wants to be like his childhood idol, Brett Favre, his approach to the game is very similar — have fun and work hard.
"It's funny because I was actually trying to tell a joke, but I couldn't think of one so I ended up smiling," Petty recalled about when he first entered the huddle for the injured Fitzpatrick in Week 9. "I was trying to think of one really quick, but I'm not witty enough. You got to keep it loose, especially coming in that kind of situation — late in the third in Miami. I want something that as soon as the guys see me, that we're here to play football, but at the same time we're going to have fun doing it."