EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ — When the dust from the National Football League offseason settles in mid-August, one Midlothian High School alumnus may find himself seated atop the New York Jets' quarterback depth chart.
As of Monday, though, Bryce Petty was firmly entrenched at No. 3 behind 37-year-old former Chicago Bear Josh McCown and 2016 second round pick Christian Hackenberg. The third-year pro won one of three starts last season and suffered a season-ending non-throwing shoulder labrum tear against New England on Dec. 24.
"The Jets have all the pieces except for the quarterback," said LaDainian Tomlinson, a Future Hall of Fame running back and former San Diego Charger, on Jan. 28, per Brian Heyman of Newsday. "If they can find a quarterback this offseason that can be the future of this franchise, I think they have everything else they need. "I think [Petty] deserves a chance. He looked good enough last year toward the end of the season that you can give him a shot."
His ascension to the No. 1 position could delight Jets' fans from New York to Texas, as well as fantasy football league owners willing to take a stab at the possible leader of a potentially high-flying Jet offense.
Last season, under former offensive coordinator and now retired coach Chan Gailey, the Jets' offense ranked 26th in both total offense and yards gained from scrimmage per game. New York also was 27th in passing yards per game (3,466) and 30th in points per game (17.2).
John Morton, the Jets' first-year play caller, spent four seasons under Jon Gruden in Oakland, three seasons with Sean Payton in New Orleans and five years with Jim Harbaugh in both college and the NFL. He was also the offensive coordinator at USC under current Seattle Seahawks Head Coach Pete Carroll.
During Morton's second stint with New Orleans last season, he mentored a receiving corps filled that featured Brandin Cooks, Michael Thomas and Willie Snead. Thomas, a rookie from Ohio State, led the Saints with 92 receptions, nine receiving touchdowns and 1,137 receiving yards.
Cooks averaged 81 receptions and 1,156 yards the last two seasons and he combined for 17 receiving TDs. Snead contributed 141 receptions, 1,879 yards receiving and seven receiving TDs in his first two seasons in the NFL. New Orleans finished No. 1 in passing in the 2015 and 2016 seasons under Morton's guiding hand.
That level of success is a welcome change of pace for an offense that scored 262 points from the quarterback position with three different players — Petty, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Geno Smith — despite the apparent absence of a generational talent like Drew Brees.
Petty, more than anyone on that roster, could be the key to solving the quarterback position in the Big Apple once and for all.
As a standout quarterback at Midlothian High School, he was ranked No. 25 by Rivals.com, No. 35 by Scout.com and No. 54 by ESPN.com. The former 15-4A Sophomore of the Year earned second-team All-District 16-4A honors as senior in 2008 despite going 134 for 222 (60 percent) and throwing for 1,507 yards, four touchdowns and eight interceptions during an injury-plagued season.
He also ran for 166 yards and five TDs.
Petty, a Cotton Bowl Offensive MVP, rolled into and out of Baylor University with a 21-4 record as a starter and the owner of 31 school, two Big 12 and one NCAA records after playing four seasons in Waco.
Time and the history detailed from his 2010 true freshman season and 2011 redshirt season may tell that Petty's true real and fantasy values have barely touched the surface and show the promise of a high ceiling McCown rarely reached and Hackenberg has yet to touch.
As the de facto starter last season because of injury or lack of offensive options, Fitzpatrick scored 200 of those points via 10 of the 13 position's double-digit point performances. Smith was little more than an afterthought.
Petty, who owned the other three and scored his highest total (15.8) against the Miami Dolphins in week 15, joins McCown and Hackenberg as the three quarterbacks battling for the Jets' starting job. According to Morton and Head Coach Todd Bowles, it's a wide-open competition.
The three are splitting first-team reps during the Jets' organized team activities. The Midlothian, Texas product appeared in six games last season and started four, throwing three touchdown passes and seven interceptions and posting a 60.0 passer rating.
"I don't feel like a No. 3," Petty said during a May 31 ESPN interview. "I don't think Hack feels like he's a No. 3. I don't think Josh feels like he's a No. 3. Or any of the above. We're just trying to get better as a unit and as a group to get where we want to be in the season."
Even with the exit of former 2012 AFC touchdowns leader Eric Decker, the Jets have a similar makeup as Morton's pass-catching Saint-ly creation 1,307 miles to their southwest.
The 6-foot-2 and 225-pound Quincy Enunwa reeled in 106 catches for 857 yards and four touchdowns as the third option behind departed receivers Decker and Brandon Marshall. Enunwa, who landed fantasy owners 11, 13, 15 and 16 points during NFL weeks against Cincinnati, Baltimore, Cleveland and New England, is joined by ArDarius Stewart, a 5-foot-11 and 204-pound third-round 2017 selection from Alabama, and Jalin Marshall, a former Ohio State University product and undrafted free agent.
Marshall, who receptions were second most by an Ohio State freshman behind NFL Hall of Famer Cris Carter's 41 in 1984, was the fourth option behind Enunwa. Six-foot-5 and 262-pound tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins presents a weapon for Petty not present in New York since Dustin Keller bolted for Miami in 2013.
Keller ranks No. 4 behind George Sauer, Rich Caster and Johnny Mitchell on the Jets' all-time fantasy tight end leaderboard with 246 points, 2,876 yards and 17 touchdowns.
The weapons exist for one of Midlothian's greatest sons and time may be in his favor.
By the time the Jets welcome the Miami Dolphins to MetLife Stadium on Sep. 24, fantasy owners and real general managers may be in scramble mode to find a way to acquire an on-the-rise signal caller in the second to last year of a four-year $843,425 contract.