FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The New York Jets' quarterback situation has as many juicy layers as a pastrami sandwich from the famed Katz's Deli in Manhattan.
Four quarterbacks, four distinct stories: The golden boy. The old dude. The reclamation project. The mystery man.
They will be on the field Tuesday for the start of OTA practices, the prelim for what promises to be a compelling and potentially tumultuous summer. Right now, there are more questions than answers, such as:
1. Who is the current starter, and does it really matter?
Incumbent Josh McCown is the No. 1 quarterback and will go into training camp as such, according to coach Todd Bowles. But that doesn't mean he will be the Week 1 starter. McCown, who turns 39 on July 4, is a placeholder until first-round pick Sam Darnold is ready to take over. One of the benefits of having McCown on the team is that he doesn't need a lot of reps to get ready, so it wouldn't be a surprise if he doesn't play much in the preseason.
2. Realistically, when will the Darnold era begin?
First of all, let's tap the brakes, shall we? For all his upside, Darnold is a very young quarterback (he turns 21 on June 5) who needs to be coached out of some bad habits he developed during his 22-turnover campaign in 2017. The worst thing the Jets could do is rush him into the lineup to satisfy impatient fans and media members.
"I think he's in a perfect situation, going to New York with Josh McCown, Teddy Bridgewater," former Jets quarterback Chad Pennington said last week on ESPN's Get Up! morning show. "He gets a chance to be patient. ... This needs to be a long-term process for Sam and the Jets, but I think they set themselves up nicely with a quarterback who can lead them in the future for a long time to come. There's no doubt about it."
Let's be honest: It isn't a great offense in which to break in a rookie. There's no No. 1 receiver, and there are no proven pass-catchers at tight end. It's also a new offensive scheme, which means the veterans will be learning, too.
Prediction: McCown will emerge as the starter because he's a stabilizing force, but Darnold will take over by Halloween. Look for him to get plenty of reps in the 10 OTA practices.
3. How does Bridgewater fit?
Bridgewater is the wild card because his role could range anywhere from starter to left out. He also could be trade bait. Frankly, the former Minnesota Vikings starter is the most fascinating veteran on the team because of his well-documented comeback from a horrific knee injury in 2016. Can he get back to being the quarterback who helped the Vikings to the NFC North title in 2015?
He likely will be limited in OTAs because of his surgically repaired left knee, but the Jets are confident that he will be 100 percent by training camp. There has been a lot of speculation about his health, some of it fueled by Vikings coach Mike Zimmer, but the Jets believe their rehab plan will make him as good as new. For a $500,000 guarantee, they believed it was a worthwhile risk-reward investment.
If Bridgewater flops, they cut him. If he excels, they could give him a shot at the starting job or trade him. They wouldn't get much in return because he's signed only through the season, but there's always a desperate team.
4. Are Christian Hackenberg's days numbered?
Probably, but the plan is to bring him to training camp. Whether he makes it to the regular season is another story, one that likely hinges on Bridgewater's health. General manager Mike Maccagnan might be the lone wolf on this, but his opinion is the one that matters most, and he doesn't want to give up on Hackenberg, who sat for two seasons.
Hackenberg still has practice-squad eligibility, so he could conceivably be stashed there if he clears waivers, but that would be cruel and unusual punishment for a former second-round pick.
A mind-blowing factoid on Hackenberg: He's one of only five second-round picks in the past 11 years who didn't play a single regular-season down in his first two seasons, according to ESPN Stats & Information. But wait, there's more: The other four suffered major injuries.
Hackenberg will unveil his revamped throwing motion in OTAs. Looking for a faster release, he shortened his delivery, perhaps in a last-ditch effort to salvage his career. Of the four quarterbacks, he has the most riding on these OTAs.