By Kristian Dyer
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Some habits die hard.
Last week, the Jets made what could arguably be one of the shrewdest moves of the draft, taking West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith in the second round with the No. 39 selection. Slated as a likely top 10 pick, Smith fell to a Jets team that has had their struggles at quarterback since Brett Favre’s departure in 2008. But the pick was labeled as just the latest gaffe by a Jets team, as just more evidence that this team and management in particular is a “circus.”
That line of thinking is now a thing of the past. It isn’t the case around this team anymore.
Last year, the Jets were criticized — and perhaps rightly so — for their March trade for Tim Tebow, a move that never seemed to make sense given their personnel or other pressing needs. Then starting quarterback Mark Sanchez compounded the situation with a poor season, highlighted by the now infamous “Buttfumble” against New England in Week 12. The “circus” mantra stuck last year as the Jets juggled Sanchez as the starter and Tebow as the backup. Tebow was never given the chance to really compete, and Greg McElroy was waiting in the wings as the team’s No. 3 quarterback.
But the Jets released Tebow earlier this week and somehow, someway, the selection of Smith as a viable quarterback in the second round is now being pointed to as the latest sign of a circus around the Jets. It doesn’t make sense.
Knocking the Jets for taking Smith — arguably the best quarterback in the draft — with a second-round selection after using their first-round picks on two solid defensive players is a double-standard by the mainstream press. What general manager John Idzik envisioned is an open competition where Smith — whether this year or next year or perhaps the year after — can win the starting job. To ridicule the idea of bringing in a young and talented quarterback to compete and play ignores the master plan behind the selection of Smith and sinks to the lowest common denominator.
In other words, mocking the Jets is such an easy thing to do that no matter the decision, many will simply take shots at the team. It is any easy thing to do, perhaps, and a bit of a no-brainer given some of the choices made by the Jets in the past.
The Jets now have five quarterbacks on their roster, and Idzik is willing to let it play out and see who emerges as the starter. A circus this is not.
The selection of Smith, even with his flaws and question marks, amounts to a safe gamble by Idzik and his staff. They brought in a quarterback who has exciting potential to be a playmaker. Rather than underscoring the “circus” mantra, the selection of Smith shows a team and an organization that is ready to open the quarterback competition to the best player, not just someone named Sanchez. It is a departure from the “circus” mentality of years past where big names were brought but wins didn’t necessarily follow.
Sanchez was handed the starting job in 2009 and now he has to earn it. There’s nothing synonymous about the big red top as far as that goes.
If anything, taking a player like Smith shows that the Jets have moved beyond the failures of the past and are now moving beyond those mistakes to something sustainable, to something worthy of franchise-building.
To something other than being a circus.
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