EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — The quarterback carousel takes another spin on Sunday for the Cleveland Browns and New York Jets.
Both franchises will add another name to their lengthy lists of signal callers in a matchup of well-traveled veterans at MetLife Stadium when the Browns’ Josh McCown and the Jets’ Ryan Fitzpatrick make their regular-season debuts for their new teams.
The 36-year-old McCown is with his ninth NFL franchise after signing a three-year deal with the Browns in March as a free agent.
“We’re confident with Josh,” Browns coach Mike Pettine said. “He’s come in and been everything we thought he would be, and then some.”
He’ll also be the 23rd quarterback to start a game for the Browns since 1999, a stretch that includes Tim Couch, Derek Anderson, Brady Quinn, Brandon Weeden and Johnny Manziel — who’s expected to serve as the backup Sunday after dealing with a sore elbow the past few weeks.
McCown went 1-10 as a starter for Tampa Bay last season, and he’ll be hoping to help the Browns turn around their opening-day fortunes. Cleveland has lost 10 straight openers and is 1-15 in Week 1 since the team’s expansion return in 1999. One positive: The Browns are 3-0 against the Jets all-time in opening-day matchups.
“It’s our job to put him in situations where he can thrive and I think that’s true with any team, but especially true for us,” Pettine said of McCown. “To me, he’s only going to be as good as his supporting cast.”
The Jets acquired Fitzpatrick from Houston in March to serve as insurance for starter Geno Smith. It looks like a stroke of genius, or luck, by general manager Mike Maccagnan after Smith was lost for at least the first four weeks of the season when he had his jaw broken by a punch from then-teammate Ikemefuna Enemkpali last month.
So, instead of Smith, Fitzpatrick will make the start just nine months after breaking his left leg in a game for the Texans.
“Getting reps in practice and having a few weeks under my belt now and being able to work with our guys, that certainly helps,” Fitzpatrick said. “It helps with everything, the timing, the communication, all that stuff.”
Fitzpatrick will also have the distinction of being the 28th quarterback to start for the Jets since Joe Namath’s last game for the franchise in 1976. That’s a list that frustrated Jets fans can recite by heart, from Richard Todd to Ken O’Brien to Glenn Foley to Chad Pennington to Mark Sanchez.
Here are some other things to know about the season opener between the Browns and Jets:
SUPER BOWLES: Coach Todd Bowles will make his regular-season debut for the Jets, who fired Rex Ryan in December after six years and hired the AP NFL Assistant Coach of the Year after two terrific years as Arizona’s defensive coordinator. It won’t be Bowles’ head coaching debut, though. He went 2-1 as Miami’s interim coach in 2011, when the Dolphins fired Tony Sparano.
PETTINE’S RETURN: After serving as Ryan’s defensive coordinator from 2009-12, Pettine took the same position with Buffalo in 2013 as faced the Jets twice that season, going 1-1. But, this is the first time he’ll come to MetLife Stadium as an opposing head coach.
“There’s a couple of us that were there, so it’ll be interesting,” said Pettine, entering his second season with the Browns. “I have great memories — not all great — but for the most part, great memories of New York and my time there.”
REVIS ISLAND — THE SEQUEL: After the Jets’ secondary was a glaring weakness last season, Maccagnan went out and made a splash by revamping the cornerback and safety spots. No move was bigger than bringing Darrelle Revis back, instantly giving Bowles a shutdown cornerback and welcoming home a franchise great. Revis played for New York from 2007-12 before a bitter contract dispute led to the Jets trading him to Tampa Bay. He signed with New England last year and helped lead the Patriots to a Super Bowl victory, but is now back where it all began for him.
BROWNS BACKFIELD: Cleveland parted ways with Terrance West, the team’s leading rusher last season, when it traded him to Tennessee last week. Isaiah Crowell is expected to be the Browns’ lead back with rookie Duke Johnson having a prominent role in new coordinator John DeFilippo’s system.
Johnson is back after recovering from his first career concussion while trying to catch a pass on Aug. 29 against Tampa Bay.
MARSHALL PLAN: The Jets’ trade for Brandon Marshall in March gave them a legitimate No. 1 wide receiver, providing Eric Decker with the perfect complement in new coordinator Chan Gailey’s offense. Marshall has pronounced himself healthy after an injury-filled season in Chicago that ended his streak of five straight seasons of 1,000 yards receiving. He could draw Browns cornerback Joe Haden on Sunday, making for a marquee matchup to watch.