By Kristian Dyer
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Another Jets loss chalked up to a learning experience, according to rookie quarterback Geno Smith. But the loss, even if not ghastly, showed just why the Jets must be ready to move on from Smith after just one year.
He doesn’t shoulder all the blame for this past Sunday’s 30-20 loss at the Panthers. He never does, but Smith continues to show major struggles in key moments, and it is costing the Jets games. Last Sunday’s fourth-quarter interception, a pick-six that made the score 30-13, put the nail in the coffin in a game where the Jets proved remarkably resilient. Instead, they dropped to 6-8 in a game that was there for the taking.
It is time for this team to move on from the idea that their rookie is the future of the franchise.
A veteran quarterback and the Jets could have won that game in Carolina. A veteran quarterback and the Jets could still be alive in the hunt for the playoffs.
On that play, Smith locked in on a receiver over the middle and threw into double-coverage. He admits to not living up to expectations. He’s just being obvious.
“No I haven’t,” Smith said. “I think I could have played a lot better. Obviously I understand that there are growing pains and things you have to learn from, and experiences you have to get better from. I set the bar high for myself. I always will. That’s the way I will improve, by setting the bar high and just keep climbing.”
With Sunday’s interception – and to his credit, he did have just one interception in the game and it was the Jets’ only turnover on offense – he now has 21 interceptions, second most in the league behind the other New York quarterback. What is worrisome is not necessarily what can be termed so tritely as experiences or growing pains, but that he continues to make the same mistakes over and over.
And over again.
The numbers show a quarterback clearly behind the learning curve. While his offensive line has been porous, he still continues to hold onto the ball too long, which in large part accounts for him being sacked 43 times, again the second most in the league. And with just six completions of 40 yards or greater, among the worst for quarterbacks with more than 300 passing attempts, he has shown an inability to connect downfield with what is spotty accuracy.
With the Jets now out of the playoffs, it must be asked if Smith is in fact improving. He admits to needing to get better at “everything in general, as far as myself. Just being better with my eyes and feet, making better throws. Putting us in better situations as a quarterback.”
Those are basic fundamentals he struggles with, not the nuances of the NFL. He can’t read defenses, he just can’t. And basic coverages still seem to throw him for a loop. That wacky college offense covered for a quarterback who isn’t ready to be a pro. He peaked in West Virginia.
And now the 6-8 Jets see it and experience it firsthand.
He expects yet another quarterback competition this offseason, one that he likely will have to win outright. That would be the opposite of this year, where he won the job by default due to a season-ending injury to incumbent starter Mark Sanchez.
“Yes, yes I do,” Smith said. “I’m going to be in full competition with myself and every other guy who is in camp.”
But it shouldn’t be a battle if the Jets bring in a veteran, which they now must do. With even an average quarterback, dare the name of Sanchez be inserted here, the Jets would be a much better team. He is always a “Buttfumble” away from a gaffe or a goof, but he can be steady and manage games.
Not even Smith can do that right now, besides the hype surrounding his selection in the draft.
This Jets team, and in particular the defense, is good enough to win some games, but their ranking and their performance is hampered when they are forced to play with their backs against the wall. They can’t gamble because they always play with a shortened field. And the defense is asked to be perfect because the offense can’t score in most games.
With a veteran, the Jets can achieve that end. With Smith this season and in the future, they likely never will.
Kristian R. Dyer covers the New York Jets for Metro New York and is a contributor for Yahoo! Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @KristianRDyer.
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