New York Jets Countdown to the 2014 Offseason: Geno Smith and the Future on Offense

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The New York Jets sit at 5-7 with four weeks left to play. Following three straight blowout losses, the team and the fan base are understandably disheartened. After a 5-4 start, with wins over the juggernaut Patriots and Saints, playoff pipe dreams no longer seemed so farfetched. However, those miraculous wins have mislead the organization and its followers. The 2013 season was always a rebuilding year. It was always about the future, seeing what the team had to build on. The Jets surprised people. The Jets surprised themselves. However, forgetting the blueprint can be dangerous and set the franchise back years. With that in mind, it is time to change the conversation. This offseason, not this season, will go a long way into determining the Jets fate for the foreseeable future. 

The New York Jets could have as many as twelve draft picks in 2014. As they stand right now, the Jets have $25,861,726 in cap space. With expected cuts of Santonio Holmes, Mark Sanchez, and Antonio Cromartie, the Jets should have $51,911,726 in cap space. That gives them a lot of room to work with.

This is a four part series. It will cover four offensive positions of need (QB, WR, TE, & G), free agent scouting reports, and draft options. This week, we’ll start with quarterback.

Geno Smith was drafted with the expectation that he could be the Jets franchise quarterback. Four game winning drives, sideline poise, and a big arm gave hope. However, since the Atlanta game, Smith has thrown one touchdown to eleven interceptions. Over that time, he has not completed double digit passes in a game. In fact, in the last four weeks, he has completed twenty-nine passes total. In that same time, Chad Henne of the Jacksonville Jaguars has completed eighty-six.

Granted, the Jets offensive talent around the quarterback is abysmal. David Nelson, Greg Salas, and  Josh Cribbs are great role players for a team. The Jets are trotting them out as starters. Santonio Holmes and Jeremy Kerley have been injured. Stephen Hill has shown nothing. Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell have proven they can be the future at running back, but with no passing threat, teams are stacking the box against them. This problem is exacerbated by the offensive line playing like four turnstiles and a sieve

Smith is being asked to do too much. Any quarterback put in a position where his receivers can’t gain separation and he faces a defensive line jail break every down is being set up to fail. However, these issues are not excuses for Smith’s overthrows and poor-decisions. 

If Geno Smith is not the answer, the 2014 offseason gets complicated. The Jets badly need skill position players and it is never smart to reach for a quarterback. However, you cannot win in the NFL when your passer gets seven points for every eleven turnovers.

This leaves the Jets with three realistic options:

1) The team could load up on wide receiver, tight end, and guard in free agency and the first two rounds of the draft. They could then add a stop-gap quarterback in the later rounds or free agency. This method essentially builds the team around the quarterback position and expects to insert a franchise player when one becomes available.

2) The team could draft a quarterback in the first round of the draft with the expectation he would be their franchise player. This would require the team to use their extensive cap space to load up on the skill positions. The hope would be that the free agent spending improves offense enough to support the rookie passers growth.

3) The team could go all out and sell the farm for a big name, free agent quarterback or look to complete a trade. This would likely leave them little monetary flexibility to build the offense around him. Other upgrades would need to come from the draft.

Many will be clamoring for option two come draft time. However, the organization cannot continue throwing young quarterbacks into the fire that is the Jets offense. Without good pass protection and skill players, they will continue to fail.

Damien Woody and 109 of his Twitter followers agree:

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Consider the case of Sam Bradford. Coming out of college, Bradford had all the potential in the world. He was the consensus number one overall pick and was expected to turn the Rams franchise around. Four years of Austin Pettis, Daryl Richardson, and the Rams offensive line later, Bradford’s job security is in question.

How about a counter example? When Matt Flynn stepped in for Aaron Rodgers in 2011, he threw for 480 yards and six touchdowns. Fast forward two years. That game earned Flynn starting opportunities in Seattle and Oakland. However, without Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, and James Jones, Flynn failed to earn his spot.

The über-talented Bradford was given nothing to work with, and struggled. The boy-wonder Matt Flynn looked great with a supporting cast and flopped in an environment less conducive to success. The raw truth is, unless you’re quarterback’s name is Manning, Brady, or Brees, an NFL team needs both a good quarterback and a good supporting cast to have consistent success.

Whichever option the Jets chose, this coming offseason features this crop of quarterbacks in free agency and the draft:

Jay Cutler: Cutler has all the talent in the world and will most likely demand a massive contract. Cutler doesn’t miss many throws and fits the ball in very tight windows. Cutler’s arm strength is tops in the NFL. He knows how powerful his arm is and sometimes throws “fade away” passes. In other words, he will be under pressure, falling backward, and not step into the pass. This tendency is just one example of Cutler’s biggest flaw, decision making. One of the most tantalizing aspects of Cutler’s game (for the Jets) is how he made do with a receiving corps of Johnny Knox, Earl Bennet, and Kellen Davis.

Michael Vick: Somehow, at 33, Vick can still outrun most of the league. However, that and his unnatural arm strength are where the positives end. Vick struggles to complete passes under pressure and will chose to take off rather than move the pocket.  He struggles to read defenses and is prone to bad decisions. His frequent injuries make Vick a risky choice as a franchise quarterback. However, Vick can make all the throws and has won in the league. As far as competition for the starting gig goes, the Jets could do much worse.

Jake Locker: Arm strength is not a problem for Locker. He displays great passing mechanics but could stand to refine his footwork. However, he does use his feet well to create passing windows and is a good athlete when he decides to take off. Locker’s biggest issue is accuracy. He will make that spectacular pass downfield but, too often, will miss the wide open player. Before having his season derailed by injury, Locker showed marked improvement in play and could prove an intriguing option for quarterback needy teams in 2014.

Chad Henne: Henne has surprisingly good mechanics. He shows great footwork and a fluid release. Henne does telegraph his throws, however, which results in too many pass breakups and turnovers. He has above average arm strength but often puts too much air under his throws. This affects his accuracy and results in many missed opportunities.

Draft: Derek Carr, Teddy Bridgewater, Brett Hundley, Johnny Manziel, Tahj Boyd, Aaron Murray, AJ McCarron

*TOJ will have extensive draft coverage later in the season/into the offseason. Keep an eye out for scouting reports on the 2014 rookie class!

Keep an eye out for the remainder of the series on free agent options at wide receiver, guard, and tight end, complete with scouting reports!

28 thoughts on “New York Jets Countdown to the 2014 Offseason: Geno Smith and the Future on Offense

  1. Unless we have a chance to draft Bridgewater (unlikely) we probably should not go with option 2.

    If we have a new coach, option 1 is the way to go. We can grab a QB in the 3rd or 4th round that may actually be a better option than Geno is (someone like Aaron Murray or David Fales).

    If we keep Rex, we should go with option 3 and go all in for Cutler. I don’t trust Rex to not put the handcuffs on a young QB, but he may let Cutler do his thing.

  2. Sign Cutler, and spend the majority of picks on WR and OL. We have that cap space for a reason. Yes there will be holes that cannot be filled, but the upgrade from worst QB in the league to an above average QB will more than make up for that. Cuter is not old, is the most sure thing out there, and in my mind the clear move. It all starts with competent QB play.

  3. Out of Manning, Brady, Rodgers, and Brees, three began their professional careers on the bench. While those three were all picked outside of the range where people talk about “franchise” quarterbacks, it also means that quarterbacks rarely come into the league and set it on fire. Any hope of drafting a QB outside of Bridgewater and expecting immediate impact is slim-to-none. Two years on, you still may not know what you have.

    To me, a veteran option is the only realistic possibility. Cutler would be nice, but expensive and may get the franchise tag. Schaub should be on that list; this season aside, he has been consistent and has gotten the job done. Matt Moore might get cut by the Dolphins. Both Locker and Bradford might be let go, especially if the Rams have a top-three pick from Washington.

  4. Couldnt agree more. Geno has been down right miserable since ATL but this criticism is extremely unfair. He has ZERO talent at receiver and an o-line that is slowly deteriorating as the season goes on taking away the run game which is essential when having a rookie signal caller. Not having Kerley is killer for Geno I mean look at Geno in the games Kerley has missed (Week 2 in foxboro and weeks 11 through 13). Kerley is the x-factor in this offense he makes everything click from the slot. That being said I feel Mornhinweg has to be seriously questioned due to the amount of times he has Geno throwing the ball to receivers who simply cant open. Geno cannot succeed in those situations and thats where Mornhinweg is failing him as a coach.

    Invest in some offensive talent, sure up the o-line and for the love of god find a corner who can actually cover someone and turn around and find the ball in the air. If those things can be accomplished the Jets will be on their way to being a very formidable team in this league.

  5. I am all in for option 1. Support Geno with above-average wide receivers, tight ends and linemen then he can be the franchise QB the Jets have been looking for the past 40 years

  6. Geno Smith cannot be assumed as the answer at QB. Despite the mediocre talent around him, remember, his team lost the last 6 games they played at West Virginia. His showing so far this year is actually somewhat similar to his senior year in college (i.e. inability to read defenses after a book was obtained on him by DCs). I say go with Option#2: try to trade for Kirk Cousins (likely a 2 or 3) and build the offensive talent around him. He is a leader of men, a better person and was clutch for 4 years at Michigan State. Heck the rumblings in Washington is that now he should be starting over RG3.

  7. I wanted option one for the 2013 draft. There was no reason to have taken a QB before day two.

    I want option one for the 2014 draft since this is essentially the same team with the same holes as last year.

    When is this franchise going to get it right?

  8. there are so many gaps in the roster to fill it’s hard to know where to start, and pretty much impossible to fill them all in a single off-season.
    draft needs to be full of skill position players on offense and secondary on defense. hopefully we can find an edge rusher and some o-line help in free agency.
    i don’t think a new qb turns things around, no matter who he is. the roster needs to be brought up to pro-level. then and only then will a qb be able to succeed here.
    so i’m hoping next year is a qb competition between geno, a mid round pick, and a mid tier free agent. it’ll be painful again, most likely, but going for broke on a qb at this point just doesn’t make sense.

  9. 2014 will begin as 2013 did: Sanchez will top the QB depth chart; Geno holding the clip board.

    Hopefully this year Jets will acquire a veteran QB who is not entitled to a Handicap Parking Spot – who can actually play.

    Perhaps we can trade Ellis and a draft pick or 2 for another team’s quality back-up.

    The mistake to avoid is drafting another limited QB and throwing the rookie into the pot again.

  10. Sanchez is due $14,980,000. The Jets would save $9,500,000 by cutting ($5,480,000 in dead money). Unless he takes a massive pay cut to POSSIBLY get a starting gig, Joe is right

  11. I don’t really see much in the QB dept. The decision is either: go with Geno or take a risk on Cutler, that’s it, in my opinion.

    Cutler has shown the ability to win games and with Trestman was playing good football this year. MM has shown the ability to get the most out of QBs, see McNabb and Garcia.

    It doesn’t appear NYJ will have a shot at Bridgewater…and what tells you he is any better than Geno? I wouldn’t argue with taking a QB in round 3/4, but throwing the towel on a 2nd round pick, after 1 season, seems a bit rash. As an owner, I’d look down on my new GM if he flipped that quickly.

    Remember, while the Jets have freed up cap space, they will need to spend some of that on their own guys: Wilkerson and Howard. Colon will have to be resigned, or replaced too. Cro, or a replacement, will need to be resigned (Verner?). I also think taking a look at Orakpo, 27, and Wash in a bit of cap hell, might be an interesting way to address the lack of edge pressure and allow them to build the offense, for Geno, through the draft. For my money, the only offensive player available, who’s worth paying up for is Jimmy Graham, and NO will likely franchise, or extend him.

    So, with no quick fix, I think you stick with Geno, use the money to sure up your back end, and find a pass rusher and use the majority of your draft picks on the O-side of the ball.

    Joe C…I’m sure you’re right, but it wouldn’t ‘surprise’ me, in the least, if Sanchez came back, with a chance to compete, for a lower number (assuming they don’t take a run at Cutler, and don’t bring in a new staff). I don’t think it’s likely, but when I look at the QBs out there, who do you point to and say: “that guy is definitely a better choice for us, to compete with Geno”? He knows the system, knows the coaching staff and personel, and he’s had something taken from him, and might have something to prove. It’s very lonnnnng shot, but it’s the NFL…expect the unexpected.

  12. “Jake Locker: Arm strength is not a problem for Locker. He displays great passing mechanics but could stand to refine his footwork. However, he does use his feet well to create passing windows and is a good athlete when he decides to take off. Locker’s biggest issue is accuracy. He will make that spectacular pass downfield but, too often, will miss the wide open player. Before having his season derailed by injury, Locker showed marked improvement in play and could prove an intriguing option for quarterback needy teams in 2014.”

    Why can’t Geno improve like this? This is a very interesting situation though, because of the language in the new CB. Tennessee basically has to commit to big money to him, in 2015, or extend him for a more reasonable cap number, before the next draft: http://espn.go.com/blog/tennessee-titans/post/_/id/2469/another-locker-question-the-contract

  13. I’m assuming Rex gets fired and Mourningwig is given the HC job….

    Geno is horrible, Vick and MM are comfortable together, I’d sign him to a 1 year deal and give Geno a chance to see if he can develop…

    The Jets absolutely must draft a WR in the first round and consider another in the 2nd or 3rd…Holmes is gone and Hill is a bust….

    The Jets absolutely must draft a TE in the 2nd or 3rd round….expecialy in MM WCO….

    A guard in the 3rd or 4th round would be prudent considering Ducasse and Winters have been horrible….

  14. I vote option 1.

    I say we take the BOPA (Best Offensive Player Available). This draft is loaded with offensive talent at WR and OL.

    Assuming we are picking in the top half of the draft we should use the first two rounds to get guys like this:

    1- Sammy Watkins
    2- Mike Evans
    3- Marqise Lee (might fall)
    4- Jordan Mathews
    5- Jace Amaro (TE)
    6- Austin Seferian-Jenkins (TE)

    All of these guys are more talented than who is currently on the field for us.

    If we can add a free agent like Eric Decker as well, we will have the pieces in place to finally pursue our franchise guy or fairly evaluate Geno Smith.

    While our Guards are absolutely terrible, I would prefer to address that position after the 2nd round. Guys like Carl Nicks, Kevin Zeitler and Larry Warford fall every year. We should keep rolling the dice like we did with Winters and maybe we’ll hit next time.

  15. I’ve never bought into much this idea of, “Oh we need loads of talent.” If you look at the NFL, there are a lot of teams that aren’t “loaded” with talent, but they still manage to have a “competent offense.”

    For example, who outside of Josh Gordon scares you on the Browns? Keep in mind this is a team that has played Brandon Weeden, Jason Campbell, and Brian Hoyer at QB, yet they are still putting up points on a relevant basis, even in losing efforts.

    Or how about the Rams; who do they have that screams “superstar?” Yet they are still putting up points at a reasonable rate, even in losing efforts.

    The problem with the Jets is they just have too many overpaid, underachieving players. For what Santonio Holmes is making, he should be a 70-80 Rec. 1100-1300 yard, and 8-10 TD player EVERY year.

    Stephen Hill as a 2nd round draft pick (because it’s obvious if you go in round 2, the talent is there), should not be having 7 games of 2 catches or less.

    You’ve used the 5th and 39th overall picks on QB’s and all you have to show for it is 76 TD’s, 88 INT’s, and 30 fumbles lost in 5 seasons.

    Heck, even your 1st round LT and C aren’t playing well.

    Talent is there folks; time for the players to step up!

  16. David, I am not saying we need loads of talent, I am just saying that we need someone. The Jets have scored a terrifying 16 touchdowns this year.

    Every team that is decent has at least 1 or 2 “go-to” guys, while our team has none (Kerley is the closest).

    Look at the Pats Offense since getting Gronk back. Broncos have 3 receivers better than anyone on the Jets. Bengals have Green and mismatches at TE. Colts had Wayne and the offense has struggled without him.

    Look at how much the Falcons struggle without Julio. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a player with the talent of Dez Bryant or Josh Gordon? It changes everything.

    My biggest fear is finding our star QB and not realizing it because there aren’t pieces around him.

  17. @Drew

    With a BPA approach, you have to consider defensive players as well. The roster lacks talent all over. On the one hand, the TEs might not last until we draft in the second round. On the other hand, there are a ton of second-, third-, and fourth-round wide receivers that have not gotten the publicity of Watkins and Evans (two go-to receivers for much-scrutinized QBs) but might be just a notch behind them.

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  19. I agree that the Jets offensive woes are partially Geno’s fault but remember he wasn’t supposed to start this early Garrard or Sanchez were, Geno was supposed to be sitting and learning. Yes the line is horrible and your revolving door of wide receivers, when their healthy, DO NOT POSE A THREAT TO DB’s. Remember the offense Sanchez had his first two years and what he had the final two and the 2011roster was still better than these Jets. Look at Hill, had a great pre-season and in regular season has disappeared be it injury or bad play. And if we don’t think not having someone to throw to just ask Luck how it feels without Wayne.

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  21. I keep thinking of a “Hard Knocks” episode, where a 4th string QB was getting cut by the GM and the QB was complaining about the talent around him. The GM responded that honestly, he had to “make chicken salad out of chicken sh*t” to get somewhere in the NFL.

    Yes, Geno’s a rookie. Yes, the talent around him has been sub-par to almost practice squad level. Yes, he played in a non pro style offense at WV. All true. But when has he made a play or a move that made you think, ‘Only a handful of guys can do that.’ You want to see avenues of progress, some flickers of light that one could project the next steps of progress. (Believe it or not, we saw flickers like that with the Sanchize – that’s what got people all hot and bothered. He just regressed horribly).

    Can we honestly say we see the building blocks for 2014 and beyond with what he’s done in 2013?

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