Geno Smith returns as a starter for the New York Jets tonight. He won’t receive a warm welcome from a home crowd and fan-base that has checked out on him as a long term option at quarterback. Smith’s inability to progress and build on his strong finish to 2013 is one of the biggest reasons the Jets are currently 2-9. In his eight starts this season, Smith was pulled twice and posted a line of 141/245 (57%), 1,459 yards, 7 TDs, 10 INTs with 143 rushing yards and one touchdown.
Regardless of how Smith plays in these next five games, he should not be leaned on as a projected starter in 2015 or dumped off the roster. If he plays well…great. The Jets have a dirt cheap, young quarterback with good physical tools who hopefully a new coaching staff can get more out of. You let him compete in camp with a draft pick and veteran addition. If he bombs out, he is still a dirt cheap, young quarterback who hopefully a new coaching staff can get more out of this offseason. You stash him away on the back end of the roster and see what happens.After an inconsistent but competent first two games of the season, Smith slowly began to go in the tank. The coaching staff didn’t help him by not trusting him in a big spot, where he made the right decision and by ludicrously pre-determing his reads after he was coming off his best game of the season against New England. Regardless, Smith didn’t respond well to the adversity, which is a must for any quarterback. He let a gut-wrenching loss against Green Bay turn into a poor performance against Chicago, turn into another poor performance against Detroit, turn into a missed meeting and a cursed out fan before bottoming out in San Diego. Smith was better against Denver and New England but then fell off the rails again versus Buffalo.
Was a benching and time off the best remedy for Smith? We’ll see. Some players need time. Some players need a different situation and better coaching staff (see Sanchez, Mark). Some players just can’t play at this level. Physically, Smith has the skill-set necessary to play in the NFL but until he improves his decision making and consistency, he will never be a successful starter.
From what we’ve seen of Smith in a little over a season, he needs to run the ball when presented with the opportunity instead of being hesitant and trying to force something down the field. Smith functions well with a moving pocket and can throw vertical routes, which need to be attempted to prevent defenses from continually stacking the box against the Jets. He has a high comfort level with Jeremy Kerley but still has limited work with Percy Harvin and the results were ugly in their first quarter together versus Buffalo. Smith is still wildly inconsistent, prone to allowing mistakes to compile and struggles with accuracy. The expectations should be low for him tonight against a very good front seven. Smith played well against this same defense last December but can he go back to playing with the level of confidence he did the final four games of 2013?