Geno Smith Could Be Rex Ryan’s Savior

Dan Marcus on how Geno Smith could be Rex Ryan’s savior

Following the crushing 27-25 loss to the New England Patriots that dropped the New York Jets to 1-6, it seemed that the much-discussed fate of Jets Head Coach, Rex Ryan was all but sealed. However, in what was an equally baffling and exciting move, John Idzik acquired a legitimate offensive “home run hitter” in the form of Percy Harvin. Despite all of the stories that are coming out about Harvin’s character, this is a move with far-reaching implications…

The popular narrative about the Jets for the past few years is that the offensive side of the ball had been neglected and bungled by the prior (and to a certain extent the current) regime in that the Jets lacked any real “playmakers”. Idzik and the current Jets Brain Trust tried to address the issue during the off-season by acquiring Eric Decker and taking a flyer on Chris Johnson, while spending three draft picks on WRs and a 2nd round pick on  Jace Amaro. However, a combination of injuries and special teams gaffes left the Jets pretty thin in terms of viable targets/weapons. Now the narrative has changed and (at least on paper) the Jets now have one of the most formidable top three receiver combinations with Harvin, Decker, and Jeremy Kerley to go along with Amaro and three very capable RBs. The only question that really remains for the Jets on offense is whether their second year QB Geno Smith can continue to improve and build upon his workmanlike but efficient performances against the Broncos and Patriots.

Despite the media having already written both the coach and the quarterback off, this move gives both of them a second chance, or in Rex’s case probably a fourth chance to prove that he deserves to stick around. At 1-6, it would take an absolute alignment of the stars, Haley’s Comet-esque miracle for the Jets to turn this ship around and make a legitimate run at a playoff spot but these last nine games are crucial. Provided everyone can stay reasonably healthy, the Harvin addition pretty much mitigates the “lack of weapons” excuse for Geno and the offense and gives him the opportunity to prove his mettle and establish himself as the quarterback here or just another name to add to the list of failed experiments at that position.

If Geno comes out and shows that he is progressing to the point where the team can consider him an asset as opposed to a turnover-prone liability and actually becomes the reason the Jets start winning games, then it will be very difficult to justify firing Ryan. If there’s one thing that the Mark Sanchez era proved, it’s that continuity is key for a quarterback’s development and that means from the top-down: Head Coach, Offensive Coordinator, Quarterbacks Coach, supporting cast, etc. If Geno’s arrow is definitively pointing up then it would be foolhardy to fire Rex only to make the young quarterback learn a brand new system after experiencing such a learning curve in a system that has been tailored and altered by Marty Mornhinweg to play to Smith’s strengths.

The hallmark of Rex Ryan teams has been inconsistent and incompetent quarterback play, so much so that it wouldn’t be unreasonable to argue that, if the Jets had a half-way competent quarterback that didn’t turn the ball over a minimum of 22 times each year, they would have made the playoffs each of the last three years. To add another wrinkle into this equation, it is important to realize that although Rex has been the Jets Head Coach for the better part of six seasons, the franchise is in the second-year of a three-year rebuilding process so you need to break down his tenure in terms of his respective GM’s: the Tannenbaum Era and the Idzik Era. With a new GM, a new Quarterback, and a new organizational philosophy you need more than two seasons to turn around what was a pretty dire situation after the 2012 season.

Idzik has done an acceptable job in fixing the Jets cap situation and in finding cost-effective ways to rebuild and restock the roster. However, if he expected Ryan to turn an over-achieving eight win team into a playoff team without starting caliber cornerbacks, while still lacking any real depth at WR then he’s either an optimist or a cunning saboteur.  I’m not sure we’ll ever know what Idzik’s rationale was in assembling the personnel for his secondary but I’m sure he realizes that he dropped the ball there just as he came to the realization that he dropped the ball on offense and was prompted to make the move for Harvin.

To borrow a Francesa-ism, if Harvin is Harvin then we’ll find out relatively quickly if Geno can prove to be the answer to Jets prayers because you can guarantee that Rex is praying for the same thing. It’s probably a classic case of “too little, too late” for this season but not for Geno and not for Rex who are effectively playing for their respective futures and the future starts on Sunday against Buffalo.