The first step in the rebuilding of Geno Smith’s Jets career was nothing short of a step backwards this past Monday night against Miami, showing why Smith will likely not be the team’s answer at the quarterback position beyond this year.
In the 16-13 home loss, Smith attempted just 13 passes, five of which came on the game’s final drive in a comeback attempt. His numbers, 7-for-13 for 65 yards with an interception, underscores not only his own incompetence but also his inability to develop. It put in bold the lack of faith the coaching staff has in Smith to lead the team right now and likely, forever.
The move away from veteran quarterback Michael Vick, who started three games after Smith was benched in Week 8, was met with disappointment by veterans in the Jets locker room.Going back to Smith after the relative success under Vick, signaled to many where the Jets are heading down the stretch.
“We’ve packed it in, waived the white flag, whatever you want to call it,” one Jets player told Metro by phone on Tuesday afternoon. “It wasn’t a good sign, not at all. They gave [Geno] how many chances over the past year? He does badly, gets benched and starts the next week. Mike has one bad game in three starts and he’s put down for the rest of the year. Doesn’t make sense. You’ve got guys busting their [butts] this year, fighting for jobs, and you want to win. You want to win but it seems like they’ve got something about the future and only the future now. With Michael, you know what you’re getting, he’s done it all. Been in every situation. If he starts this season, I’m not saying we’re perfect but we win a few more games. Maybe we’re in the playoff mix, I dunno. But you bench him, well, the older guys I talk to weren’t that happy. We’re not anti-Geno, the kid does it right and tries, but we want to win. He needs to improve, ya know?
“We could still get some wins this year. Look at [Monday] night. We didn’t move the ball at all in the second half. At all. If we actually throw it, maybe we win this thing. At the very least, we change field position a bit. But they’ve given up on this season and us.”
It’s a damning indictment from a locker room that the player described as “shocked and surprised” when it was announced that the team was going back to Smith.
The Jets will deny this, of course. Smith was portrayed as the face of the franchise this past offseason, something that the coaching staff and management beat into the ground with every opportunity. Smith was picked in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft and instantly, before a snap at rookie minicamp, was part of a quarterback competition. It was clear that the new management in place wanted to force Mark Sanchez out, he the symbol of the old regime.
But forcing an unready Smith onto the field and continuing to prop him up, as they did on Monday night, only underscores that he isn’t the answer. Not yesterday, not today and likely not in the future.
The locker room believes in Smith, just maybe not right now. The player who spoke to Metro on Tuesday is a veteran and well-established in the league. He said that “Geno can grow and be good but right now, his confidence isn’t there. You can tell that. He needs to sit and learn. You can’t force that on him. We want to win right now, the fans want to win. But it feels like [management] has different ideas, like they want to blow this thing up.”
Seeing the Jets numbers on Monday night – 49 rushes for 270 yards – can certainly point to a gameplan designed to attack a Dolphins defense that has been weak against the run this year. But there is also a lack of confidence in Smith, who now must be seen as someone who not only can’t win games but can’t even manage them.
“We ran for  yards,” Jets head coach Rex Ryan said. “I think that’s pretty good or whatever it was at halftime. I’ll take that any day of the week. Any coach would, not just me. Tom Brady would take that. Bill Belichick would. If we throw six and we’re rushing for 210 yards, we’ll sign up for that every week, even if we have Joe Namath at quarterback.”
Cute analogy from Ryan, except that no team would take the ball out of a healthy Brady or Namath’s hands, barring a bizarre situation. Then again, most things about this franchise tend to be a bit bizarre. This one no different.