FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – One week after offensive coordinator Chan Gailey declared Geno Smith as the New York Jets starting quarterback, it was head coach Todd Bowles who walked back the certainty of his assistant's statements. Smith is, in fact, the team's starting quarterback, but that's just for now. To say anything more than that was not on Bowles' mind or his lips.
Last week, Gailey spouted off a bombshell when he announced that Smith would be the team's starting quarterback, this despite the fact that the Jets acquired a solid veteran in Ryan Fitzpatrick this offseason, traded up in the draft to take Bryce Petty, already have Matt Simms on the roster and currently have Jake Heaps in camp as well. There certainly isn't a lack of bodies at QB on the Jets roster and at least one of those candidates, in Fitzpatrick, already has a halfway decent NFL resume.
That Smith, who has struggled in his first two years in the league, was anointed the starter two months before the start of training camp was a highly questionable decision. Especially since Fitzpatrick isn't 100 percent cleared after last year's season-ending injury. It seemed premature to announce anyone, let alone the erratic Smith, the starter at this point. Smith can certainly win the job outright, but given that Fitzpatrick isn't healthy yet and has played under Gailey, it would be foolish to not at least kick the tires on the veteran before making any bold decisions.
Enter Bowles, who made it clear on Wednesday afternoon that Smith is the starter now but that the young quarterback doesn't have an iron-clad grip on the job. At least not yet.
“Chan's very matter of fact. In Chan's mind with Fitzpatrick being hurt and Bryce just coming in, there's no real competition. But come camp time, there will be competition at the spot. I said it from Day 1: Geno's the first team quarterback and Ryan's second, Matt's third and we'll get Bryce and we'll get Heaps some reps as we go,” Bowles said. “Just like any other position starting with the first team, if he's playing well, he's the starter. If he's not playing well, if someone's playing better, as with any other position, somebody is going to play."
It was a tight-rope walk from Bowles given Gailey's declaration seven days earlier. He didn't throw his offensive coordinator under the bus, but at the same time he made it clear that Smith wasn't a sure thing to be the Week 1 starter. It was the better part of shrewdness from Bowles, especially given the lack of development from Smith in terms of his pocket presence, ball placement and ability to read defenses.
On Wednesday during Organized Team Activities (OTAs), Smith was shaky. He had a hard time with his accuracy and on the first two plays of 11-on-11 drills his first pass was batted down and his second pass was nearly intercepted. Those efforts typified a day where Smith was underwhelming.
Fitzpatrick was clearly the better quarterback of the day, but given that it is just May and one bad session, it would be a bit much to read too much into Smith's terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.
“I view it as an open competition. With Geno being the starter, it's his to lose and it's Ryan's to take, it's Bryce's it's Matt's to take. No different than any other position, whoever starts with the first team is going to get the first team reps,” Bowles said. “As play dictates, as preseason goes on and as production goes on in practice, it could or couldn't change from any position we have.”