Jets

Jones: Jets, Smith Were Simply Not Ready For Raised Expectations

Yet 5-4 Start Thrust These Novices Into Positions With Little Margin For Error
Jets quarterback Geno Smith. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

Jets quarterback Geno Smith. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

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By Kimberly Jones
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Wonder what Tim Tebow thinks of this. And Kellen Clemens. Mark Sanchez, too. Maybe, in Mississippi, Brett Favre is tracking the Jets quarterback situation and wondering, Can it really be this bad?

Well, none of it has been pretty over the past three – possibly season-defining – weeks.

Geno Smith didn’t throw a touchdown pass in November, and he’s already been benched in December.

If the Jets had followed the predicted script, and simply been a bad football team, none of this would matter. They’d have a rookie quarterback learning in a lost season.

But the Jets surprised us — though they say they did not themselves — in getting off to a 5-4 start that featured inconsistency sprinkled with signature wins, over the Patriots and Saints. They were playoff contenders. Expectations grew.

That was three weeks ago. Three consecutive losses has the Jets at 5-7, likely out of the playoffs and with a serious question at quarterback: Is Smith the guy?

In the past three games, Smith has thrown six interceptions and completed a total of 21 passes; and his passer rating over the span is 40.7 – total. He watched Matt Simms take over in the second half Sunday.

The mistake would be drawing conclusions so quickly about a quarterback who was not NFL-ready coming out of the West Virginia offense. Simply put, he needs time, and the Jets knew it when they drafted him.

But we’re about to learn even more about Smith. How does he respond to getting benched? Can he return to being the guy who, early on this season, looked much more instinctive, especially when he scrambled? Can he rebound?

“One thing about Geno that’s been impressive, he’s been through it already. He’s has the ups and downs and all that type of stuff,” Rex Ryan said. “His perseverance is impressive to me. He’ll bounce back from this and I’m just waiting for him to have a great game. Obviously, it’s a challenge to everybody, not just him. I think he has it in him. I don’t think there’s a doubt that he has it in him. We’ll find out soon enough.”

Smith will start Sunday against the Raiders. He should have a chance against Oakland, but as he, himself, said, “I’ve got to get my act together pretty fast.”

The Jets have scored fewer than 10 points in four of their last seven games. The playoffs may be out of reach, but they can restore some good feelings about their future. (It would help if the defense got back to covering and tackling, too.) And they could save their head coach’s job.

That is possible. But only if the rookie quarterback can respond.

“If it was a tactic to wake me up or to get me going, it definitely worked because right now, I definitely feel a sense of urgency,” Smith said of his benching. “I’ve got to go out there and play hard and I’ve got to get the job done.”

We’ll see if he can. As Smith knows, everyone will be watching.

DONE IN BY DALLAS: Clearly, the Giants have had enough tough losses and disastrous plays this season. Pick one or two. Or 10.

But, ultimately, their season was defined by two close losses to the Cowboys. In those two games, the Giants committed seven turnovers and 17 penalties. And lost by a combined eight points. Enough said.

DECISION TIME ON TUCK: One of the Giants’ most intriguing offseason decisions will be on Justin Tuck, who’s in the last year of a five-year, $30 million deal signed in January 2008.

Even in today’s NFL, there are players who should spend their careers with one team. Tuck is one. A year ago, a continuation of Tuck’s Giants career would have seemed unlikely past this season. But his play this year, and not just the four-sack performance against the Redskins, has likely spurred interest from the Giants in his continuing in their uniform. Of course, the price will have to be right, for both sides.

Tuck deserves credit for being one of many Giants, including fellow captains Antrel Rolle and Eli Manning, who helped to keep this team afloat amid the 0-6 disaster. Tuck’s presence has value. So does the fact that, at age 30, he’s rebounded after two injury-plagued years.

“I feel like this season I have been more of a complete player,” Tuck said. “I feel like I could have had a few games like the one (against the Redskins), if everything fell into place.  I feel like I’ve had games where I was in the backfield a lot, disrupting plays and was a second away from sacks. I think I have been more of a complete player this year.”

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “More than certain.” – Geno Smith, when asked if he is certain he can correct problems from the last three games.

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