EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The scene played out like bad improv theater.
"We could have won 45-0, (Bryce) was going to start the last four games," he said, following the 41-10 loss to Indianapolis (6-6) at MetLife Stadium. "That's the slot we had penciled for him, that's a good time to take a look at him."
He added: "I have not said anything to anybody."
Waiting behind a black curtain that separated the postgame news conference area and Jets locker room, was Ryan Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick was benched at halftime when the Jets were down 24-3 and, apparently, had just found out that he played his final down as a member of the Jets. He will almost certainly not be back next season.
In seemingly conflicting, or at least muddled statements, Fitzpatrick said he knew the information "walking out to the podium," and then later said a few members of the Jets' coaching staff informed him of the decision in the locker room after the game. Bowles made it a point to almost never reveal his plans at quarterback after previous games this season.
Fitzpatrick does not know if he'll be active this weekend when the team takes on the 49ers in San Francisco.
"I don't know (what my role is)," Fitzpatrick said. "I'll have to ask Todd what he wants me to do."
It was the final act. Too cringe-worthy and awkward to be funny. Too frustrating to be sad. The Jets chased Fitzpatrick all offseason long after he put up one of the greatest quarterbacking seasons in team history only to end up here. Here after one of the more embarrassing losses in franchise history, dancing around one another for the world to see. Here after $12 million, talk of playoffs and respect, winning games and riding it out until the playoffs were mathematically out of reach.
So ends another bizarre quarterbacking chapter in Jets history. Years from now we might ask ourselves why the team waited so long to go to Petty in the first place. He's a quarterback with a gifted arm who had the unfortunate task of hurling go balls into a prevent defense late on Monday night and came away with a touchdown (his official line: 11 of 25 for 135 yards, a touchdown and two picks). His feet are admittedly a step behind his brain. He came into the NFL and was handed a playbook that more closely resembled Gravity's Rainbow than what he was used to at Baylor.
But was it worth waiting this long, depriving him of hundreds of precious practice reps that might have turned him into a confident starter heading into 2017's opening day?
We certainly didn't get any closer to that answer Monday. Everyone was simply too mad, too confused or too out of place to have the right answer. On the other sideline, Andrew Luck (22 of 28 for 278 yards, four touchdowns, no picks and a 147.6 passer rating) was drying off early. His night ended at the beginning of the fourth quarter. He represented the kind of fortunate drafting experience the Jets have never enjoyed at the position.
In time, maybe Jets fans can respect Bowles for holding onto hope, even at 3-8. Maybe respect Fitzpatrick for sticking up for himself and getting the money he thought he deserved. Definitely respect Petty for not complaining, even when it was painfully obvious the team wasn't going anywhere this season. But don't expect to feel any of that now. Not while the show is still coming to an end with no clear direction in sight.