For the first time in years, the AFC East is a free for all. The Patriots, Bills, and Dolphins are 2-2. The Jets are 1-3. All have had their fair share of poor performances. Three of those 7 total AFC East wins have been against the winless Raiders. Two in divisional match ups. Let’s be up front about this: the AFC East is abysmal at the moment, as bad as we have seen it in quite some time.
The Bills are turning to Kyle Orton at quarterback. The Dolphins and head coach Joe Philbin would not even confirm that Ryan Tannehill is the starter a week ago. Tom Brady and the Patriots lost to the Chiefs by 27 points on Monday evening, a match up that Brady did not even finish due to being blown out by a large margin in the fourth quarter. Then there is Geno Smith, a player with plenty of potential but a large learning curve ahead of him with limited receiving options.
Is there a clear cut best quarterback in the division right now? The answer is obviously no, although you might give that title to Brady by default (even with his obvious rapid decline). So, what about the $5 million dollar back up sitting on the Jets bench?You have heard all the narratives – Mike Vick is ‘washed up’, he can’t stay healthy, he was not good the last time he played. Sure, you can go ahead and believe them while the Jets evaluate Smith, but is there not a part of you that wants to know for sure?
I was fortunate enough to attend the Green and White scrimmage this year and spent most of my time keying in on the quarterbacks. I thought the Jets did the right thing taking Geno Smith in the 2nd round of the 2013 NFL Draft, there was too much value there to pass up. He ran a pass-heavy, shotgun system at West Virginia that inflated his numbers and did not force him to make many pre-snap adjustments. Selecting him, the Jets had signed up with the realization that these tools would need to be developed.
The problem is, Smith was forced to start as a rookie in week one due to Mark Sanchez suffering a season ending injury in the preseason. Learning on the fly in life is not easy, learning how to be a pro quarterback in the NFL on the fly is nearly impossible. Yet the Jets had no choice and Smith was forced in with his receiving options being Santonio Holmes (coming off a lisfranc injury), David Nelson, Jeremy Kerley, Kellen Winslow on one knee, and whoever else the Jets could sign off the street and line up out wide.
With a full offseason in the books, Smith looked improved in the preseason. The game had finally slowed down a little for him and he cut down forcing the ball, but he is still fool’s gold at the moment. The Jets have been running as basic as an NFL offense can get, as noted by Lions’ safety (and former Jet) James Ihedigbo in the quote from the New York Post below:“He does lock in on his receivers,” Ihedigbo said. “It’s fair to say he’s a one-look guy, although I don’t know if that’s entirely his fault. I would put that on the coaches, because that’s how the offense is designed for him — to make the easy read and get the ball out of his hands.”
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but this is as notable of a red flag as I have ever seen. It will not work in the NFL, defenses are too complex and defenders instincts will make you pay for this at some point of the game. At this point, what do you have to lose in starting Mike Vick?
The arguments are becoming tiresome – “Geno will lose confidence if he is benched”, “Vick will turn over the ball”, “Vick will get hurt.” I rebuttal with this: If Geno loses confidence from being benched, he is not cut out to be an NFL quarterback. Having time to sit and learn the game would be the best thing for him moving forward, rather than constantly forcing things and learning as the weeks pass us by and the losses pile up.
If Vick turns over the ball, is it really going to make a difference at this point? He had a touchdown/turnover ratio of 7:4 in the seven games he played in 2013. The Jets turnover differential is -6 right now, which is dead last in the league (Smith’s touchdown/turnover ratio is 5:7). As for Vick potentially getting hurt, he played behind one of the worst offensive lines (Jason Peters was out for the year) in 2012. He was sacked 15 times in only seven games in 2012.You want to “open up the offense” and “take shots down the field”? Vick was 9/22 of passes for 20+ yards down the field (PFF) for 299 yards, 3 touchdowns and 1 interception in 2013. You want to control the clock and maintain possession? He has averaged 45 rushing yards a game throughout his career and forces defenses to use a linebacker or safety to spy on him (this opens up passing lanes for running backs, tight ends, and wide out drag routes underneath).
I am not yelling “bench Geno, he sucks!” I am laying out the facts in a logical manner if the Jets want to go for the throat of the weakest AFC East in the past decade. If he comes in and lays an egg, what difference does it make? The Jets are 1-3 (once again, they beat the winless Oakland Raiders by 5 points at home), they do not have the talent to shut out teams and the offense needs a spark. If it’s truly all about winning, Rex Ryan will see what Mike Vick has left in the tank before it’s too late.