By Kristian Dyer
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It’s another case of the inconsistency of Rex Ryan, and his stubborn refusal to bench marquee players.
The New York Jets are on the cusp of a remarkable season – one that could be squandered if their head coach doesn’t belly up to the bar and make some tough decisions. This could be a playoff team, a remarkable accomplishment for a Jets club that was a popular pick to be among the worst teams in the league. But the play of their rookie quarterback is holding them back and might keep them from reaching their potential. A top-tier defense likely isn’t enough to overcome just how bad the play has been under center this year.
Ryan said on Monday afternoon that he would consider benching wide receiver Stephen Hill after the enigmatic wide receiver has failed to register a catch the past two games. But the man throwing him those balls, quarterback Geno Smith, according to Ryan is safe in his starting role despite his very obvious deficiencies.
From the podium, Ryan did his best to deflect the criticism about his second-round pick. He said that Smith isn’t the only one to blame as he shifted and spun to alleviate the burden on his young quarterback. But despite the overwhelming evidence that Smith is getting worse not better, Ryan still said that “I think without question Geno’s going to start this game.”
In Smith, the Jets have a quarterback who is in clear regression mode and shows no signs of stopping his turnover tendencies. It isn’t to hate on Smith, who is a rookie and was expected to adapt and adjust to the NFL right away with no room to learn or ease into the situation.
Truthfully, he was rushed into the starting job too soon to replace the injured Mark Sanchez.
He wasn’t ready to start then.
He isn’t ready to start now.
And if he can’t read defenses and increase his pocket awareness, he may never be ready to start.
But Ryan stubbornly sticks to Smith, who in some games has single-handedly cost the teams a chance at wins this season through his poor decision making ability and what – as of right now – looks like a highly limited skill set. Smith hasn’t thrown a touchdown pass since the first quarter of Week 7 and his eight touchdowns stacked up against 16 interceptions results in a QBR of 25.8, good enough for No. 34 in the league.
He’s beginning to look like an over-hyped player, one who benefited from the wide-open “Air Raid” offense in college at West Virginia. An offense that seemingly has masked his defects.
In short, the Jets are in playoff contention despite their rookie quarterback’s clear lack of readiness at this juncture. It can’t always be expected to be that way.
On game day, the coaching staff hands the ball to Smith and tells him to not make mistakes, to simply not lose the game for them. It is bound to be Russian Roulette on any given Sunday; no matter how good the defense is no young quarterback and certainly not one who has to acclimate as much as Smith can be expected to be mistake free. It certainly isn’t possible.
The Jets 5-5 record this year is a testament to that as they can’t find consistency on the offensive side of the ball. Other issues abound but the most glaring one is the play of their quarterback.
So what Ryan does in all of this is anyone’s guess. He’s willing to bench Hill, a player who clearly has disappointed in his two years in the league and hasn’t looked like an impact player. But he’s willing to stick with Smith even as the quarterback seems to get worse with each game. It is nonsensical from Ryan.
Behind Smith is a veteran David Garrard, who has 86 NFL appearances and has been to the Pro Bowl once in his career. Also in the mix is Matt Simms who, though young an inexperienced, has yet to turn the ball over in his two brief appearances so far this season. To say that Ryan has no choice but to start Smith would be inaccurate. He’s choosing not to have a true quarterback competition at this juncture and it might just cost him his job if this team doesn’t turn things around.
If he stands fast and firm behind the fledgling and flailing Smith, he might be pondering that choice from a lounge chair in the Bahamas this January instead of readying his gameplan for the playoffs.
Kristian R. Dyer covers the New York Jets as a beat reporter for Metro New York and also is a contributor for Yahoo! Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @KristianRDyer
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