When It Comes To Geno and Rex, Neither Case Is Clear Cut

TJ Rosenthal on the unclear futures of Geno Smith and Rex Ryan

Geno Smith’s audition as starter has lasted for an entire season. Through it, Jet fans have been treated to the good, the bad and the ugly. Rex Ryan has now been the Jets head coach for five seasons. He’s brought the Jets to the brink of the Super Bowl twice but has also stunted the teams growth due to a ‘defense heavy’ mentality exemplified over three playoff-less seasons. Both Smith and Ryan have built cases for themselves that stretch in two opposing directions.

With two games left to go in 2013, Smith has nothing left to provide Jets brass on the field that hasn’t already been shown. Smith has made some clutch plays late in games (Tampa Bay, Atlanta, Buffalo at home), used his legs to escape trouble (Patriots win at home, Saints, Oakland) and at times has shown poise after early in-game mistakes. Smith has also bottomed out at times in games at Cincinnati, Buffalo, and Baltimore. The pick sixes (6)  have begun to add up at an alarming rate too. Making doubters wonder if the tunnel vision that has plagued him during the struggles will ever truly go away for good.

Smith was handed the reigns after the Mark Sanchez injury drama under the notion that he was perhaps another young gun in the new age model of quarterbacking. More Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick than say the pure drop back type. The kind of player who could rear back and sling it, but also make plays outside of the pocket and in the run option as well. A guy who would be harder to gameplan for.

Now fourteen games in, Smith does not appear to have the type of explosion when he takes off that a Wilson or Kaepernick has. His ability (or lack thereof) to read defenses from inside the pocket have become more of what Gang Green diehards are studying when they watch and wonder if he is the future.

With protection, Smith has provided big throws as well as senseless gaffes. In the end GM John Idzik must assess what percentage of the mistakes have stemmed solely from being a rookie and learning on the job. In defense of Smith, he has arguably suffered from a lack of weapons outside and that’s when the receivers and tight ends are all healthy. Which they haven’t been for some time now. The Jets have lacked a stretch the field type of wideout since Santonio Holmes first arrived in 2010.

However, ask a Jet fan on twitter and opinions on Smith are split. One will say that Smith has shown enough positive signs to build around him during free agency and the 2014 draft. Ask another fan, and they will tweet that the club must draft a QB again. A Teddy Bridgewater or a Johhny Manziel. Someone in this QB rich draft who can become the teams real future leader.

As for Ryan, he took his first Jet clubs to the Super Bowls doorstep twice. His once brash, confident quotable style rubbed off on a talented defense and safe yet effective ground and pound offense. As the original Ryan blueprint cemented though, we all began to witness a coach who although the heart, passion and belief in his guys was there, overestimated what he had in his own backfield and receiving corps.

Ryan overshot the ceiling for Mark Sanchez in 2011 and had to dial back the unleashing of what he thought would be the next top tier QB added to the NFL’s list. He overvalued the idea of Shonn Greene as a feature back in 2011 and 2012. After the departure of hammering back Thomas Jones. He called his 2012 squad featuring players like Chaz Schillens and raw rookie Stephen Hill at WR “the most talented team he’s had.”

Ryan has always been able to motivate players and rally his team against more superior opponents. His inability though, to address his undermanned offensive roster as he drafted more studs on defense over the past three years, and settle in on one scheme offensively (three OC’s in five years) has become an albatross for a franchise that can compete with anyone, but fails to score enough to win consistently.

Ryan has presided over a team for a half decade now that has never had a backup quarterback with experience capable of subbing in for young starters Mark Sanchez and Smith, in order to stop any in-season slides. Allowing the Jets a different option at piloting the ship.

Mark Brunell was too old. Tim Tebow was a sideshow, and David Garrard was injured. How much of that was Ryan’s doing is unknown, but if the ax falls on him in two weeks, a major reason for the firing will be the Jets problems at QB under him. A situation that maybe Ryan could have prevented had he demanded or seen the need for a more solid option behind the starter.

Smith and Ryan have both said that they are the ‘right guys.’ Smith being the best the Jets can do at QB 1, even after Matt Simms replaced him in the he’s second half weeks back. Ryan noting that he should be the one to lead the Jets going forward. Idzik will have to show an instinct of his own in weighing both sides when it comes to these two.

The facts that build the ‘yes’ and ‘no’ columns for Smith and Ryan are somewhat evenly  distributed. The outcomes from Idzik’s findings will set the course for years to come. Any attempt by Idzik to over sell the fan base that either of the two must stay or go due to clear some cut proof why won’t be so easy to achieve. The final calls on Geno and Rex can clearly be calculated and seen in two different ways. Idzik needs to forget about winning any fans over, and just decide upon the correct way in both cases. Then, he has to be right. Otherwise the mediocrity in Florham Park will continue to drag on .

  • Lidman

    Can Idzik really move on from Geno after 1 yr, under a defensive HC? Milliner has had growing pains, Winters looks overmatched, Ivory is his 4th rounder, Aboushi and Campbell are unknowns and Bohanon is his Scotty McKnight.

    One other question, many criticize Rex/NYJ for not having a ‘real back up QB’…how many truly ‘good back ups’ are there?

  • Mark Phelan


    Looking back over Rex’s tenure, has there really been a back-up QB? For the first 4 years has there even been a QB coach?

    Honestly, I think we all know that Geno is not an NFL stud. He would have done better with a better supporting cast. Since he is the worst QB in the NFL I’m guessing he might move up a notch or two. But we know that like Sanchez, week after week he will come out and shoot himself in the foot. He does not have it.

    As far as Rex: He has his team operating manic-depressive. Manic every once in awhile, especially against the better teams, depressive after a victory…especially depressive after a bye week.

    Is this the type of coach you want?

    Neither Geno nor Rex have what it takes to lead us to the promisted land. They are both flawed, and a professional coach will beat them more often than not.

  • Gavin Buck

    With Geno, I am trying to compare him to another second round pick who looked ropey in his first season, Nick Foles.

    Nick Foles sat for most of 2012 and the start of 2013 and has only come into his own since playing in the back half of this season.

    I am not saying Geno will be Nick Foles, but I am willing to give him an offseason to show improvement.

    However, I think we do need a solid veteran who can come in and take over if these same issues keep happening with Geno e.g. Locker (if cut), Cassell, Bradford (if cut), Henne, Vick, Cousins (3rd rounder?). While they will never be the answer, they would be potentially competent to sub in and / or take over the rest of the season.

    In this scenario, I think we have to keep Rex also, as Geno will need continuity in order to make any strides, learning a new offense again would be detrimental.

    Just my twopenneth.

  • Lidman

    I’m in Gavin’s camp on Geno. Mark, I don’t see how you simply give up on a rookie QB. Along with Foles and Locker (who Gavin mentions), Alex Smith, Drew Brees, Eli Manning, Ryan Tannehill, Andy Dalton, Matt Stafford, Carson Palmer and Cam Newton all struggled early in their careers and all have, to different degrees, become good signal callers. Peyton Manning had a tough rookie year too, but because of his ‘QB-savant’ status, people easily dismiss that. I don’t where Geno Smith will end up, but to kill the guy after 1 season seems harsh.

    Gavin, I do agree with your choices of back up/competition for Geno this year, my thoughts were more towards Sanchez. Yes, Brunell wasn’t really ‘competition’, but it wasn’t as though there was someone else out there, just go back and peruse rosters, and you’ll see there wasn’t much the NYJ missed on, in the b/u QB market.

    Mark, to your ‘manic’ statement: last year, this team was a mess: injuries, lack of team speed, lack of offensive taletn, a QB who had lost all confidence and an offensive coordinator that made NYJ fans long for Schotty made last season the worst I can ever remember. If they would have fired Rex after last year, I wouldn’t have had an issue. This year, I think the inconsistency has a lot to do with youth, and their lack of offensive talent. If they move on from Rex, and bring in a new guy, they’ll be growing pains there too. Geno will be in a new system, you’ll have a new defensive system and might have a situation where the new coach has different philosophies that don’t fit their personnel (see Monte Kiffin moving Dallas from a 3-4 Ryan scheme, to a 4-3 Tampa 2 scheme).

    I think HC need to develop, just like players. In another comment, someone referred to the NYJ putting in the time to allow Rex to learn to be a HC. I think he’s shown improvement this year, a year that began with EVERYONE assuming he was a dead man walking. I think cutting bait now, would be akin to what SF did with Alex Smith. Sure, SF is playing well now. If they had kept Smith, instead of turning things over to Kaepernick-who has struggled a lot this year-they might be playing at home in the playoffs. If the NYJ were to fire Rex, I think another team built to win now..say Dallas or Detroit, would love the opportunity to get his defensive mind and his ablility to prepare/game plan for big games, and combine that with their offensive talent, which is something he’s never had.

  • David

    @Lidman, when you mention the backup QB situations, it isn’t really about how “great” they are, but having someone you know has the ability to step in and play competently if the starter is hurt or not playing well. As I have said many times before, if Geno was not pulled after the Buffalo, Baltimore, and Miami games, he was never going to be pulled for anyone else this season.

    Say what you will about Geno: If the Jets had had a “competent” QB (either behind Geno or starting instead of Geno) who cut Geno’s turnovers in half, the Jets are fighting New England and Denver for the #1 and #2 seeds in the AFC. Let’s be realistic, the team is 6-8 with a QB who has the most turnovers in the league. That in itself should tell you something!

  • Lidman

    D..I fully agree. I’ve said, on this site, numerous times if Sanchez were the QB for this team they would have won that first NE game. If you go back to the pre-season he clearly was the more prepared guy.

    That said, once he wasn’t an option, finding a back up QB was on Idzik. Sure, we can argue back and forth over Matt Simms, but in his brief stints it wasn’t as if he displayed anything to suggest he’d be better. On top of that, the HC is fighting to keep his job. If he can get to 6, 7 or 8 wins with the GMs 2nd round choice, he’s more likely to remain coach here. If he makes the decision to go with Simms, and benches Smith, than he’s basically spitting in his boss’ face. Finally, I’ll point to Ryan Fitzpatrick, who is a ‘competent b/u QB’. In games Locker started, Tenn went 4-2 (and 1 of those losses, v Jax, he got injured in). In games started by their ‘competent b/u QB’ they are 1-8. The two most common reasons guys are back ups is because they are either young, and developing (ie Ryan Mallet, Brock Osweiller types) behind top level QBs, or they are old starters, who were cast off by the team they started for (ie any Minnesota QB, Josh McCown, Matt Flynn). You need a QB to win in this league, so if you draft one early, and choose to start him, I think you have to give him the season, in order to properly evaluate him before the next season. If the NYJ went out and got Matt Cassel, do you think he’d have been the difference in making or not making the playoffs? I don’t, and I think it would have been a wasted season because you’d have no tape, on Geno, in real games to see what coaching he needs to develop into what the GM believes he’ll be, no? If not, why’d you pick him in round 2?

  • The Jet Report

    David that’s exactly what I meant. Only the Jets will tell you they were stuck w Sanchez $ and “who else was out there?” Mediocre teams make excuses. Good ones find solutions. They threw this year away and the AFC was weak. Wasted opportunity. Watch, Andrew Luck will dominate for ten years now just when the Jets get to where they think they are going. Waving a white flag before week one? Dumb planning. Better build around Geno now after wasting the year long tryout. Otherwise explain to fans why there was no other option. The team should be 8-6 and in the hunt right now.