The New York Jets named Geno Smith their starting quarterback today in a move that should not have surprised you. Let’s look at why they are did this, how Smith performed in his second year as a NFL starting quarterback and where he needs to improve to hold on to his job throughout the upcoming season…
Why? Smith is the most talented quarterback on the roster and the best case scenario for the organization in the short and long term is Smith playing well this season. He is the third youngest starter in the NFL (outside of the two first round rookies) and coaching staffs crave talented, young players who are cheap. It stagnates an offense when first team reps are split between multiple quarterbacks throughout practice and Smith needs more work in this system than Ryan Fitzpatrick, who knows it inside and out. Chan Gailey knows exactly what he has in Fitzpatrick and the Jets know FItzpatrick will be ready to play in a second with Smith on a quick hook (unlike Mike Vick, most professional veterans continue to work hard as backups). This allows Smith to get the necessary work with the starting unit throughout the off-season (Fitzpatrick isn’t 100% healthy yet either) and hopefully be ready to roll as an improved player by week 1. Playing Bryce Petty meaningful snaps was never a consideration for 2015.Reports like this were wildly off base, as the new regime saw a degree of potential in Smith and with their limited flexibility and options this off-season thought he was a good option with more talent surrounding him and a new offensive system.
Smith in Year 2: Smith improved his completion percentage by four percentage points as a sophomore from his rookie year, he also threw one more touchdown and had eight less interceptions. Over his final seven starts, if you take away this coaching atrocity, Smith was 121/199 (60%), 9 TDs, 4 INTs, 1,428 yards with an additional 124 rushing yards (don’t forget this bizarre game plan was in there as well against Miami on Monday night). If he can project that production over an entire season, the Jets could very well find themselves in the playoffs.
Despite the numeric improvements, Smith was maddeningly inconsistent in 2014. Yes, his supporting cast left plenty to be desired and yes the coaching staff was mentally checked out before the year even began but Smith needs to be held accountable for his ongoing propensity to turn the football over and make poor decisions.
Smith has a terrible habit of locking into his first read and basically pre-determining before the snap where he is going with the football. When he does this, interceptions happen.
Despite being a good athlete and racking up impressive yardage totals as a rookie on the ground, Smith shows a hesitance to run and will force passes down the field instead of utilizing running lanes. In the below play, he could have easily run for the first down but instead tried to push the ball to Jeff Cumberland on a four vertical concept.
Another habit Smith must drop is backpedaling too far in the pocket and holding on to the football too long. The Jets offensive line was average last season and had some ugly games but Smith didn’t help his sack totals by holding on to the ball too long and not stepping up in the pocket frequently enough.
So why would the coaching staff have faith in Smith? As mentioned earlier, he is young and was developed in just about the worst way possible. He was a second rounder who started from day one and asked to drop back 30+ times in 7 of his first 8 starts with an average line and a terrible group of receivers. Chan Gailey’s offense should be more friendly to his skill set and what he did in college than Marty Mornhinweg’s offense. Smith also will now have more talent around him than at any point in his NFL career.
Smith also has terrific natural arm strength and touch on deep passes. In the first GIF, he properly scans the defense and fires a missile to Jeremy Kerley on a 3rd and long. In the second, he stands in the pocket, takes a shot and delivers a dime to Eric Decker for the touchdown.
Smith is a very good athlete, with an ability to improvise and create plays with both his legs and arm down the field. Ultimately, this team needs to find a way to score more points and if the staff is confident they can help control Smith’s turnovers, he provides the best ability to do that on the roster this year.
Smith will unquestionably have a quick hook with Fitzpatrick behind him on the depth chart but as of now, he makes the most sense as this team’s starter heading into training camp.