New York Jets – Open Quarterback Competition-Gate

Joe Caporoso on the early “quarterback controversy” for the New York Jets

This is “slow” time in the NFL calendar. Despite OTAs, there is really not all that much news pouring out. This leads to the need for story generation. Not surprisingly, the headliner of that story generation around the New York Jets is the quarterback situation. There is nothing new or groundbreaking to report about it. The same quotes are being recycled from early March. Yet, elements of a shut out local media who have been left in the dark on the team’s thinking throughout the entire offseason is knee jerking into writing things like this

The team responsible for the Butt Fumble is in danger of mishandling a potentially volatile situation. It’s probably Smith’s job to lose, but team officials haven’t characterized it that way. They speak in code phrases, saying they expect Vick to “push” Smith and to compete with the second-year player.

Ultimately, this isn’t a shocker. When Vick was first signed, Rich Cimini, who wrote the above quote led his story with this

The New York Jets set the stage for another season of compelling quarterback drama and perhaps controversy by signing former longtime starter Michael Vick on Friday.

Cimini’s line of commentary isn’t unique to many who cover and follow the team. Yet when looking at that quote and line of thinking, does everybody forget how often the Jets were appropriately criticized for never having a credible veteran backup quarterback? Ironically, the second they signed one, criticism began to pour in for creating “drama,” which is nonsensical.

The Jets quarterback situation has been relatively clear since the end of the season. Geno Smith finished strong enough to merit heading into training camp on top of the depth chart but didn’t play well enough to merit not being pushed strongly by a better, more proven quarterback than Matt Simms. The Jets evaluated Vick as the best available free agent option, which was not an uncommon line of thinking based on who was available. Vick had the added benefit of being familiar with Marty Mornhinweg’s offense and of a previous relationship with Smith.

Right or wrong, the Jets never seriously considered bringing Mark Sanchez back, believing he was an insufficient option, particularly compared to Vick and that Matt Simms was not capable of being the number two quarterback. Smith’s quote immediately after the Vick signing spoke well to that belief

We needed to find a guy that was legitimately a guy that could come in and play. I think that’s what we did. Mission accomplished.

The line of thinking on Smith and Vick was always that Smith would start as the team’s top quarterback and be given the benefit of the doubt in any tight race, which is completely logical considering he is a second round pick in his second year and Vick is nearing the end of his career and is on a one year contract. Only in the case of Vick clearly outplaying Smith, would Vick begin the season as the starter and more prominently, Vick allows the Jets to have a much quicker hook for Smith than they did in 2013. There won’t be a four game hesitation to go to the backup if Smith goes through a slump like he did last November, the team is confident Vick can come in off the bench and win a few games if necessary.

Look at the quotes from Vick immediately after he signed with the team:

As of now, Geno is the starting quarterback for this football team,” Vick said in a conference call with reporters. “From this point on, we’re going to compete every day. I wouldn’t say I’d necessarily be OK with sitting on the bench, but I know what I signed up for,” said Vick, who described Smith as a good friend. “I know what I came to New York to do. First and foremost, I came to compete and be there for Geno. I know he has a long way to go, but we both talked and we both agree we’re going to push one another and make each other better.”

By every report, Smith and Vick split first team reps on the first open OTA practice. Vick didn’t say anything out of line with his original comments. Actions speak louder than words, no? Rex Ryan has consistently said “it is a competition” and that Smith will be hard to beat but Vick will be given the chance to compete, which it appears he is since he received a huge chunk of first team reps. Marty Mornhinweg provided the quote that basically sums up all you need to know about the Jets situation at quarterback right now to Dom Cosentino of

There is competition,” Mornhinweg said. “Now, it may not quite be like the competition we had last year [between Smith and Mark Sanchez], where everything was 50/50. We’re trying to continue the progression with Geno, and then have Mike ready to go. It’s just that simple, and Mike knows the exact expectations and roles that he has, and Geno knows the exact expectations.

There is no need for a daily cycle of hand wringing. Expect Smith to take the first snaps in training camp, to start the first pre-season game and if he plays Vick to a draw or a near draw to get the opening day start. The team likes Smith’s long term potential and believes he will make the necessary strides this offseason with another year of the offense under his belt and improved weapons around him. They have Vick in place as a strong insurance policy if their faith in Smith was misplaced.

Author: Joe Caporoso

Joe Caporoso is the Owner and EIC of Turn On The Jets. His writing has been featured in the New York Times, Huffington Post, MMQB and AdWeek. Caporoso played football his entire life, including four years at Muhlenberg as a wide receiver, where he was arguably the slowest receiver to ever start in school history. He is the EVP of Content at Whistle Sports