Throughout the off-season, the New York Jets began the process of rebuilding their roster. This was a needed process considering their salary cap and roster situation after the 2012 season. Expectations for this year were tempered or at least should have been tempered. The Jets didn’t have the makings of the league’s worst team but even an optimist should have seen the ceiling for this team as hovering around .500 and playing relevant December games.
Everybody embraces the rebuild until there are rough patches. When you start rookies, particularly mid-round rookies, they are going to struggle at times. There are going to be ugly games. This issue is going to be compounded when a huge chunk of your offense is comprised of street free agents, and your team suffers injuries to key veterans.
Brian Winters was awful against Buffalo. It was the 6th career start for a 3rd round player, after he missed nearly all of training camp. Of course there are going to be games like Sunday. What are you going to do, bench him for Vlad Ducasse? We have 3.5 seasons of evidence that Ducasse isn’t a starting caliber NFL player and he isn’t going to be on the team in 2014. If you weren’t screaming for Winters to be benched after the Saints game, don’t scream for him to benched after the Bills game. You let Winters take his lumps, see if he can bounce-back and make sure you have enough of a body of work to decide if he could be a starter for you in 2014.
Keep this in mind: the Jets are on a ONE game losing streak and people are screaming for wholesale changes, most prominently at the quarterback position. This team is 5-5 and currently the 6th seed in the AFC and you want to hand the team to a UDFA quarterback who has never taken a relevant NFL snap in his career?
Geno Smith is in a slump right now. He played well in a week 7 victory over the New England Patriots…that was less than a month ago. If you watch that game tape, against the Jets most consistently important opponent, and you are saying right now with 100% certainty things like “Smith doesn’t have IT” and “there is no way he can ever be the guy”….you aren’t living in reality. Either that or you should immediately find a front office job in the NFL since you have such omnipresent foresight.
Smith’s 2nd half against Tampa Bay, first three quarters against New England in week 2, week 3 game against Buffalo, week 5 game against Atlanta, week 7 game against New England and even avoiding any turnovers in a week 9 win against New Orleans is a big enough body of encouraging work for him to maintain this job. It is CERTAINLY more encouraging and shows more than Matt Simms did completing passes in a 4th pre-season game and in garbage time against a prevent defense.
Smith bombed against Cincinnati and Buffalo last week, just like most of his team around him. Did you see the Jets secondary and offensive line against the Bengals and Bills? They were equally as awful, if not more awful than Smith. People forget the Jets were down 28-6 before any Smith interceptions in Cincinnati thanks to Marvin Jones dominating the Jets secondary. People forget the Jets defense allowed a rookie QB to go 20/28 with 2 TDs without his top two receivers, while forcing no turnovers and creating one sack last Sunday.
Let’s not fall into being a Smith apologist. He has played poorly the past three games, without question. He hasn’t proven himself to be the 2014 guy yet…not even close. However, any proclamations that definitively state what Smith can or cannot be, are unfounded. The jury is still out and should remain out. People who demand Smith be benched immediately conveniently forget the positive moments through the Jets first ten games.
You can shout about all the grit and intangibles Simms has shown in pre-season (although I remain convinced if his last name was Smith and not Simms there’d be less clamoring among fans to play him). There is no logic in trotting him out for a first career start on the road against the defending Super Bowl champs this Sunday. You don’t throw in the towel on a quarterback after ten games, you don’t hand off a .500 team currently in the playoffs to somebody with no NFL experience. If Smith bombs out the next few games in spectacular fashion, then maybe you have this discussion….not after a ONE game losing streak.
Remember last year when everybody demanded Tim Tebow and Greg McElroy? Just about everything being said about Simms right now was said about McElroy last year. He started. Bombed out. Got hurt and is currently a practice squad player. Tebow? You know that story. Remember when everybody demanded Kellen Clemens? Brett Ratliff? Even Geno Smith was in demand a couple of months ago….it is always the next guy who is the inevitable savior or hero.
Smith is far from hopeless as a prospect. Will he bounce back from this recent slump? We’ll find out in these next few games. This Jets team is filled with question marks and players auditioning for a prominent role in 2014 and Smith is one of them. If Simms is that special, he’ll get plenty of work in training camp next summer and win himself the starting job then. Yet, I am guessing everybody who is hollering for Simms now wouldn’t be content if the Jets just let him and Geno compete next summer. Why not? If Simms is that talented, he should easily win the job and the Jets don’t need to waste another high pick on a quarterback or trade for somebody like Jay Cutler.
The Jets are a young team that worked with limited resources this previous off-season. Their lack of cap space prevented them from coming anywhere near filling all their holes. Next season, with 30-40 million in cap space and 12 draft picks, they’ll be able to aggressively attack their weaknesses. A little less patience next season will be more understandable, but for now? Put away the pitchforks after a one game losing streak.