With the Jets Quarterback “Competition” coming (hopefully) to an inevitable culmination sometime after Saturday’s preseason game against the Giants, the length of time it has taken to arrive at any type of decision has caused a stir among members of the media. The Daily News’ Manish Mehta went so far as to call the whole thing a “farce,” a charade orchestrated by John Idzik to make it seem as though his Second-round draft pick wasn’t merely being handed the job. With Manish, I really can never be sure if he’s operating on information from one of his infamous unnamed sources or if it’s merely conjecture. Thus far, to the objective observer, it seems as though Sanchez is the “leader in the clubhouse” to get the nod Week 1 but according to Mehta’s report, all Smith needs to do is play a couple quarters of mistake-free football and the job is his.
Call me skeptical but I just have a tough time believing this, considering that Smith has not showed much (if at all) to prove that he 1) deserves the job and 2) can handle the rigors associated with being a Rookie QB in the NFL. If you ask me, there are two questions that the Jets’ brass and fans alike need to ask themselves before deciding who they want under center Week One:
A) Who gives us the best chance to win football games? (No brainer)
B) What is the most logical/practical move?
In regards to question “A,” the answer has to be Sanchez because of the fact that he is a known quantity, you know what you’re getting with him (for better or worse). You know that Sanchez can make plays and lead this offense but you also know that he is liable to make at least one bone-headed mistake per game. The situation this year is slightly different than it was last season, when Rex stubbornly stuck with Sanchez last season because he claimed that he gave the team “the best chance to win,” most people would be quick to disagree with him. However, this season is different because it may actually be true. Last season it’s safe to say that Sanchez was a broken man, a shell of his former self, playing with an offense not only devoid of weapons but also devoid of true play-caller as well as any starting-caliber NFL players. I mean, when you trot out Jason Hill, Chaz Schilens, and Jonathan Grimes on a given week it’s tough to win football games. Couple that with the presence/distraction of the most popular personal punt protector of all-time, it was a recipe for disaster.
This season the script has been re-written and the ship has been righted to an extent, out is Tony Sparano and Tim Tebow and in is an actual offensive play-caller in Marty Mornhinweg. As we’ve seen in the first two preseason games, Sanchez has the ability to complete a lot of passes in this system, which uses a lot of motion, spacing, and horizontal routes to get receivers open. In addition, the talent around him has improved for the first time since 2010, with the development of guys like Stephen Hill, Clyde Gates, and Jeremy Kerley. Add in the fact that it seems the cavalry may be coming sooner rather than later in the form of a Santonio Holmes early season return and the addition of his favorite target, Braylon Edwards (provided he makes the team), Sanchez may actually have some people to throw to.
Oh and wait, the running game has gotten better as well with Bilal Powell showing that he deserves some significant touches and the addition of the dynamic and powerful Chris Ivory. Sanchez now has a lot of guys he can lean on and go to, to move the ball down the field and put points up on the board for a change. The real obstacle that has kept him from running away with the job has been the turnovers and they’ve been bad turnovers. Pick-sixes to defensive linemen and Red Zone turnovers are absolute killers in this league and if it continues, it will make the leash that much shorter for the former First-Round pick.
On the other hand, we have Geno Smith, a guy with more raw ability and talent than Sanchez but a lack of experience in a pro-style system and playing against intricate NFL defenses. In limited time, Geno hasn’t really shown anyone that he is ready to take the reigns just yet and there is no doubt that there will be a significant learning curve for him. I’m just not sure that the dynamism and play-making ability will compensate for the lack of experience and overall readiness. Coming out of West Virginia, before the Jets even drafted him, I was of the belief that he would need to sit and learn for at least a year for no other reason than I had never seen him actually take a snap under center. Geno has the physical talent but the mental reps need to be there before you can throw his feet to the fire, which leads me to my second point: the practical decision.
Let’s assume for a moment that Manish is right and Geno Smith lights it up Saturday night against the Giants and is named the starter for Week One against Tampa Bay. That is a move from which there is no turning back, Rex coaching for his job will have to live with the inevitability of rookie mistakes that will surely cost him a game or two. Even if Geno struggles to the point that he deserves to be benched, they can’t bench him for Sanchez or they would be giving him the “Sanchez Treatment” all over again and they would then have two QB’s with fragile/damaged psyches. Again, the logical and practical move would be to start Sanchez, especially given how brutal the schedule is in the first half of the season. If he throws up all over himself, at least he will be saving Geno a beating from the Patriots, Steelers, and Falcons.
I have read the tea leaves and all of the signs say that the Jets should start Mark Sanchez in Week One because if it turns out to be a mistake, at least it is a reversible one. On the other hand, if Sanchez suddenly figures it out and goes gangbusters on the league, then the Jets have a very good problem on their hands. But then again, it’s just wasted breath because it’s all rigged anyway, right?