By Jeff Capellini, WFAN.com
Bravo, Rex. Bravo.
At least someone is using his head and is showing some conviction.
When the Jets opted for Geno Smith in the second round of the draft, the writing was on the wall for Mark Sanchez. The majority of fans I encountered said they were willing to take the lumps associated with a rookie quarterback so long as it meant never having to see Sanchez take another meaningful snap again.
And it turns out Sanchez likely never will, at least not with the Jets, now that it has been reported he’s opted for surgery on his ailing right shoulder and will miss four to six months. (There are also contradictory reports that say he hasn’t made up his mind — yet.)
But that doesn’t mean those same fans are keeping up their end of the bargain.
The so-called supporters in question will do you all one better. Not only would they have sold their souls to welcome Sanchez back after forsaking him and stoning him from the village, they want to take their hypocrisy further.
They don’t just want to cut bait with Smith after a bad game in the fourth week of his rookie season, they want to replace him with a guy with even less experience.
That’s just amazing logic.
Luckily for them their coach is a lot smarter than they are. Ryan said Monday he has no intention of replacing Smith with anyone, even though his rookie quarterback has already committed 11 turnovers.
Matt Simms may one day be a quarterback that actually sees the field, but right now he’s a 25-year-old undrafted player who has never thrown a regular season pass in the NFL. But the brilliant Jets fan, you know, the guy who can’t sit still for more than five seconds and turns on this team at the first sign of adversity, is now treating Smith like that other pariah, Sanchez.
It took Jets fans a little less than four years to lose total faith in Sanchez, which I’m shocked actually took them that long. Now It’s taken them four weeks to sell Smith out. What happens if Simms gets in there? Does he get four plays?
Too many people are under the delusion that the Jets are somehow going to be contenders for a playoff spot, as if all of that accepting of full-scale rebuilding was just said in jest, not to be taken seriously.
Yeah, sure, rebuilding? Yup. We’re down. We get it.
No, you clearly don’t.
Rebuilding is conducive to what you saw Sunday. It means making a million mistakes and taking lumps at a moment’s notice. Rebuilding means being realistic when it comes to expectations, both weekly and yearly. It means never taking anything for granted, like an early win or two. Much of Jets Nation fell into that familiar trap of getting too high after a win following the victory over what is basically an average at best Buffalo squad. You’d think fans of this franchise would know better, especially when it comes to relying on as many young players as this team is.
I understand that fans are passionate and all that noise, but let’s be serious. This is a schizophrenic fan base that is so socialized to expect the worst, when something bad happens it simply loses its collective mind. It goes beyond what fans of other franchises do, or at least it seems like it does because the logic used for the arguments they make tell me the rest of the country just cannot be this insane.
Geno Smith is going to make mistakes — a ton of mistakes. But if you get upset about them you have no one to blame but yourself. I would dare to say every game the Jets lose this season will be directly tied to Smith. Just look at the loss in New England a few weeks ago. The statistics suggested the Jets had a significant edge in most aspects, but Smith threw three picks in the fourth quarter alone.
Then there was Sunday’s loss in Tennessee. The Jets and Titans, respectively, played to a statistical standstill, basically even in total yards (330-322), first downs (16-17), total plays (62-65), rushing yards (91-78), passing yards (239-244) and time of possession (29:22-30:38), yet the Jets lost by 25.
I’m sorry, but when your quarterback is responsible for four turnovers, which either resulted directly in a touchdown or led to a short field that eventually ended with six points against, it’s a major problem. The Jets’ defense may be very good, but when an opponent is permitted to repeatedly set up shop on the green and white side of the 50, there’s just so much the defense can realistically be expected to do.
But that’s what the fans signed up for when they agreed to back a rookie quarterback over the incumbent — and they did agree because to a man 99 percent of the fan base wanted nothing to do with Sanchez. So there’s no point crying about what happens on Sundays. The fans just have to accept things for what they are and dial down the absurd rhetoric. Screaming for Simms to start is silly because Smith was the hand-picked successor to Sanchez. It will take a hell of a lot more than a bunch of turnovers for the Jets to sell him out as quickly as a lot of the fans have.
I give a lot of credit to new offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg. When Sanchez went south over the last few seasons the Jets wouldn’t ask him to do anything. They’d force-feed the ball to any healthy running back they had. It turned out that Sanchez still managed to turn the ball over a ton.
Mornhinweg thinks differently. Whether it’s due to his addiction to the pass or his belief in letting Smith work through his problems, he’s going to call plays that ask this neophyte quarterback to try to pick up big chunks of yardage.
The impulse for the Smith hater will now be to play it conservative, let him try to manage games. I’m sorry, but that’s not going to happen, even with Stephen Hill and Santonio Holmes in danger of missing next Monday’s night’s game in Atlanta due to injury. Smith is going to throw the ball and there’s a better than average chance he’s going to get intercepted on at least one or two occasions. You live with it because that’s how Smith is going to learn. He’s not going to absorb much of anything watching Simms or, dare I say it, Brady Quinn, dinking and dunking the Jets through ugly possessions.
Smith has soul. He’s strong enough mentally to live with the mistakes he makes and learn from them. He has humility. He’s already apologized to this team twice for his shoddy play. That’s how a player develops the respect of his teammates when things aren’t going well. These Jets will continue to play for him, much like they always play for Rex, because to a man they understand that no one on this team is infallible, or, better yet, thinks he is.
So the Jets know the score and will continue to take the field each week with an eye on making progress. It’s up to the faction of fans that only see the bottom line to change their thinking, because their expectations are flat-out unrealistic.
When Troy Aikman first broke into the league he threw 36 interceptions in his first 26 games. And while I understand it’s really not fair to compare the pedigrees of a No. 1 overall pick and a player who was passed over 38 times before being selected, I also know that despite Aikman’s reputation and stellar college career, there were a lot of people ready to label him an NFL bust. Lost in all that is the fact that the Cowboys of the early part of Aikman’s career were built from the ground floor up following a 1-15 season. The Jets are in a similar situation.
It’s going to take an incredible amount of patience by the fans to see this thing through, and it all starts with believing in this quarterback. He’s bound to infuriate you much like he did this past Sunday many more times before this season is over.
But that’s the price a team pays when it rebuilds. To suggest the Jets are going to be anything more than a one-minute maddening, one-minute surprising team this season is to show that certain people have no idea how this works.
This team is going in a certain direction. Some of you may not like it, but at least the Jets aren’t in the business of eating their young.
Read more columns by Jeff Capellini and follow him on Twitter at @GreenLanternJet
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