The New York Jets quarterback competition has received an expectedly high level of scrutiny and criticism. It has been a battle filled with conspiracy theories, poor facial hair decisions and an ankle injury. Yet, there is a good chance we will know who the Jets starting quarterback will be against Tampa Bay by this time next week.
Many Jets fans have seem to forgotten that Geno Smith was a second round pick. He was a second round pick for a reason. “Not Being Mark Sanchez” isn’t enough to be handed the starting job. Do you really want another young quarterback coddled by this organization? Smith has had an up and down Summer and has thrown a grand total of seven passes in pre-season action after missing last week’s game with an ankle injury. All signs point to him starting this Saturday night against the New York Giants and likely seeing at least a half of action with the first unit.
So what does he need to accomplish to make himself a viable option for week one?
It is hard to pinpoint specific stats. Smith needs to move the ball consistently, which Mark Sanchez has done but avoid the killer turnover, which Sanchez hasn’t done. Beyond that, he needs to thrive in areas that Sanchez has either struggled in or not shown yet this August. Smith has the better arm of the two. He needs to flex it and complete a few passes that Sanchez is simply physically unable to…that means, don’t hesitate when the deep post is called like it was against Detroit, let the ball fly. Smith will also help himself by executing the screen pass, a big part of Marty Mornhinweg’s offense, properly and taking advantage of the read-option plays the Jets will likely call for him. Smith isn’t a running quarterback but the Jets are going to use read-option from time to time, like many teams in the league, and if he can take off for a first down or two, it will help give him an advantage over Sanchez.
The bottom line is that Smith is currently the underdog. He needs to make a distinct impression Saturday night. Sanchez has spent more overall time with the starters and as of now is more ready to go for week 1. If Geno does make the needed impression, I wouldn’t be surprised if Rex Ryan had him play a few series with the first offense against Philadelphia the following Thursday, just to further sharpen him up.
If Smith doesn’t distinguish himself Saturday and Sanchez is the guy for week 1, perspective needs to be kept. Again, Smith is a second round quarterback. He is not RG-3. He is not Andrew Luck. Most people did not expect him to be ready to start immediately coming out of the NFL Draft. It could very well be better for his career if he is given another 6-8 weeks to further master the offense, watch the game from the sideline and then comes in at some point to relieve Sanchez.
Remember, if you start the year with Smith and he struggles heavily. Who are you turning to? You are going back to Sanchez, who isn’t going to be on the team next year. Geno Smith is going to start at some point this year. It is a question of “when” not “if.” Yes, there is always the chance Mark Sanchez starts the season, plays very well and the Jets are in playoff contention throughout the entire year. This is the NFL, anything can happen. However, it is more likely the Jets are going to hit a rough patch in the middle of the season, specifically when they face Atlanta-Pittsburgh-New England-Cincy-New Orleans five weeks in a row. If that occurs and Sanchez is struggling, the Jets can then give Geno the reigns in the second half of the season and hope he shows enough to head into next year as unquestionably “the guy.”
Overall, the situation is a little more fluid than many fans currently seem to think. The most likely scenario is that Mark Sanchez starts the season under center and Geno Smith finishes it but a big night from the Jets rookie on Saturday could very well change that. Let’s see if he can answer the bell, it is the first of many major tests he will likely have in New York.