This was supposed to be the week when, in theory, Geno Smith would return and reclaim his starting job as quarterback of the New York Jets.
But with the Jets now 3-1, the team is off to its best start since 2010 and is flying high with confidence under QB Ryan Fitzpatrick.
The offense hasn’t been terribly pretty but it is efficient. The Jets have two road wins and the ball is moving well down the field. Fitzpatrick isn’t the likely long-term answer for the Jets’ quarterback woes, a conundrum that they’ve had since Joe Namath led the team on and off the field four decades ago. In Fitzpatrick, the Jets have a good, solid quarterback. He won’t have incredible highs but his lows aren’t quite as cellar-bad as Smith’s.
During the bye week, Metro polled six members of the Jets offense to get their take on Fitzpatrick. They were promised anonymity so that they could speak freely and openly.
“[Fitzpatrick] commands [the offense] so well,” one player told Metro. “In the huddle, the language comes out clean. He understands the playbook, where we’re supposed to be. There’s no hesitation.”
Another player said that “he’s like having a second coordinator out there on practice [field] or [in] meetings or a game. It’s really natural to him.”
When asked if Smith had the same command of the offense last year and this year in practices and games, the player would only say that “Fitz has the best command of any quarterback I’ve ever played with in this league. It’s phenomenal.”
Fitzpatrick’s numbers are slightly better than Smith’s during the first quarter of the season when compared to the same sample size from last year. But the 3-1 mark is better than at any point during Smith’s two years running things.
Fitzpatrick has been criticized for showing a lack of downfield arm strength, something that Smith has no shortage of. With wide receivers such as Brandon Marshall and rookie wide receiver Devin Smith — both home run threats — Smith could potentially be an asset in helping stretch the field.
“Geno, I’ve played with him now a couple of years,” one offensive skill position player said during the bye week. “And Geno has this huge arm, but he hasn’t learned to use it. Ryan has a stronger arm than people think but his placement is good. And this offense doesn’t ask him to throw it 60 yards down field. Just get it over the top of the secondary, over the safeties when they’re playing deep. He can do that. He’s done it a few times this season.
“I don’t get everyone saying he has a weak arm, he doesn’t. His ball placement, man it’s impressive. We haven’t always had that. Some quarterbacks around here in the past, they get you the ball but it’s not in stride. You’re reaching up, going back and it throws you off your route. That can be the difference in a first down or a third down, that little second to stop and get a ball. [Ryan] doesn’t have that issue. He’s placing the ball right there.”
Then there was this.
“He’s refreshing,” one veteran in the Jets locker room said. “Been around enough quarterbacks and teams. He doesn’t get on you when you make a mistake but he always owns up to his. He’s a good quarterback and I think Ryan, with this team, can be a playoff quarterback. We’d all like to get him there.”