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Will Jets play Christian Hackenberg? 'This isn't Triple-A'

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After the New York Jets miraculously climbed to a 4-5 record, inspiring misguided playoff prognostications, the team crash-landed back to Earth with an ugly, boring loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.

The defeat brought Gang Green to 4-6, just one-and-a-half games out of the sixth seed in the AFC, but also back to reality. Josh McCown, the 38-year-old veteran who was putting together a miracle season in New York, yucked it up against one of the league's worst defenses, reminding fans, still under the wild impression that the Jets were contenders, of the team's true purpose this season: To lose, to be competitive in losing and to find a quarterback of the future.

Now that the Jets are seemingly out of position to make a surprising postseason run, should they give young gunslingers Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg a shot? Petty started four games last season, and Hackenberg, well, Hackenberg was a second-round pick in 2016. Shouldn't he at least get a shot before New York goes QB shopping this offseason? According to his coach, eh, not quite.

"We're focused more on the Carolina Panthers than getting into that debate," quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates told reporters Tuesday. "Of course, we'll have that conversation at the end of the season. As an organization, this is professional football. This isn't Triple-A.

"We're going to play the best players that give us the opportunity to win at all positions. That's our philosophy and Josh [McCown] is our starter. He gives us the opportunity to win on Sunday and that's what we're focused on. We're focused on a very good Carolina Panthers team. ... At the end of the year, we'll have more conversations about the future."

With six games left on the schedule, four of which are against legitimate playoff contenders, throwing Hackenberg, the third-string quarterback who looked lost in the preseason to say the least, into the ring would be equivalent to workplace malfeasance. It'd be a questionable move considering how well McCown has played throughout the season; the journeyman has posted career-bests in completion percentage (69.0) and pass TDs (14) and has made a competent downfield attack out of an offense that was projected to pace a winless campaign.

Unless McCown is injured, there appears to be no logical reason to play the young guys -- especially if neither of them are the guy. If Bates' comments indicate any line of thinking from the Jets' typically tight-lipped front office, it's that Hackenberg is not the guy. He's a guy.

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