New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith put forth a dubious performance in his team’s Monday night loss to the Chicago Bears, tossing two interceptions, including one that was returned for a touchdown on the game’s second play from scrimmage. Now, Smith’s job as Gang Green’s starter is in question, with many fans and even former coaches discussing the possibility of backup Michael Vick taking his place.
Have they all forgotten how this works?
His detractors will fail to mention that despite the two interceptions, Smith completed just over 60 percent of his passes Monday night (26 of 43) for 316 yards and a touchdown. The two interceptions he threw were bad throws, there’s no question, but they were surrounded by a number of well-threaded passes to nine—yes, nine—different receivers on the night.
Smith detractors also seem to have forgotten that the quarterback is in just his second season in the NFL, following a rookie campaign in which he started all 16 games for the Jets. That came after Smith fell from the projected first-overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft into the second round, passed over twice by Gang Green, which held the ninth and thirteenth picks in the draft before selecting the West Virginia quarterback with the no. 39 pick.
At the time, Smith was not considered a first-round talent by many NFL front office executives, including one who said “Man, I’m glad I don’t have to draft a quarterback. These are a bunch of guys [in the 2013 draft class] as far as I’m concerned. If you’re starting one of them, it means you had nobody else.”
Add those reviews on to the fact that the New York Jets under Rex Ryan have a brutal quarterback history, highlighted by their mismanagement of former signal caller Mark Sanchez, whose confidence and shoulder were crushed under Ryan’s control.
With all of that considered, what would realistic expectations of Geno Smith’s NFL career have been? Would anyone have expected him to complete 63 percent of his passes so far this season? Because that’s exactly what he’s done.
Look, you won’t find a Geno Smith apologist here. I didn’t think he was a great quarterback coming into the draft—hell, he played in a system that made Pat White look like one of the greatest college quarterbacks ever. He’s certainly erratic at times, and can be caught trying to do too much (like on his 4th quarter end zone interception toss). But what second year quarterback hasn’t been?
He has to correct his mistakes and learn to play within himself, but those calling for Smith’s head in favor of Vick—the same Michael Vick who’s completed 60 percent of his passes once in his career, and who hasn’t played a full season since his final year with Atlanta in 2006—are woefully shortsighted. They forget that young quarterbacks who aren’t Andrew Luck don’t always look great, and a large portion of the fan base calling for the backup to take over probably doesn’t help Smith’s confidence.
Neither does offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg bringing in Vick for a play here and a play there to run a quarterback draw. What do the Jets hope to accomplish by this? Have they learned nothing from the Sanchez-Tim Tebow saga that sapped the starter’s remaining mojo and sunk their 2012 season?
If the Jets wished to start Vick, they should have done so to start the season and eased Smith back in. But once the move is made to the backup, there’s no going back to Smith, whose confidence would surely take an enormous hit. Rex Ryan, as is his wont, has verbally expressed his confidence in Smith, but he did the same for Sanchez once upon a time, too. It’s time for Ryan to step in, remove the packages with Vick, and let his young quarterback develop, for better or worse.