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Palladino: Don’t Just Hand It To Geno! Jets Need Real QB Competition

Geno Smith (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

Geno Smith (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

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By Ernie Palladino
» More Ernie Palladino Columns

The Jets meandered their way through free agency and picked up Michael Vick.

They jettisoned Mark Sanchez in arguably the best move of the offseason.

Then they looked at a depth chart that also includes Matt Simms and made sixth-rounder Tajh Boyd one of their 12 draft picks.

So of course, the Jets being the Jets, we recently learned they are left with Geno Smith as their 2014 starter. If you listen to Vick and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, it appears Rex Ryan, John Idzik, and their cohorts are basically handing him the job. Again.

Ryan says a different thing. He claims there will be an open competition for that starting spot come training camp. But Vick, at 34 years old and wise enough to smell a forest fire’s worth of smoke when it’s lit right in front of him, let the dog, er, cat out of the bag during Wednesday’s offseason practice session. He tried to toe the company line, but when pressed just a little he folded like a bad hand of Texas Hold ‘Em.

Take away all the polite verbiage and this is what Vick’s comments boil down to: “The only way I get a shot at this job is if Geno falls off a cliff.”

“It’s not an open competition,” Vick told the media.

Ryan said just the opposite. He hasn’t swayed from that road, and he probably shouldn’t even if honesty is the best policy for the rest of humanity. A coach who calls off a competition before it even starts is a coach who risks losing the heart and mind of the so-termed also-ran. What happens if the chosen one goes halfway through August? It could be quite problematic for old Rex.

Still, it is disturbing that Ryan’s ploy was so transparent that Vick could see through it in a minute. Even worse, this revelation should in no way satisfy the suffering fan base. With Eric Decker now on board along with veteran holdover Jeremy Kerley, a couple of high-grade rookie wide receivers added through the draft, and a potential stud running back in former Titan Chris Johnson, it would have been nice if the able and mobile Vick became part of a real competition, if only to spur Smith to a higher maturity level.

Instead, Smith gets to continue to ease his way into the job, and that’s simply not good enough. Idzik has brought some real, proven talent to an offense sorely in need of boosting. Immaturity at quarterback can bring that all crashing down. Smith has drawn enough heat without having the fate of the 2014 season placed on his still-young shoulders. Vick, despite his stop-gap status, might have been an ideal choice to at least start the season, or at least have a clean shot at the job.

But Vick is a smart guy. For whatever moral shortcomings he might have as a person, he’s wise enough to the business of football to realize that Smith represents the front office’s major investment. Their decision not to draft a quarterback high underlined the Jets’ commitment to Smith as their quarterback of the present and future. But there would have been nothing wrong with the present coming a few games into the regular season if Smith faltered in camp. And the future is a long way away.

The fan base is now left with the realization that whatever Vick has left in the tank will be expended on the game day sidelines, unless something drastic happens to Smith during the summer. Vick now knows he’ll take on the role of mentor, and little more.

That would have been fine under other, more successful circumstances. Trying to interrupt a three-year playoff absence is not one of them.

The Jets, Smith especially, needed a real quarterback competition this summer. Vick knows it’s not going to happen.

Though he wouldn’t say it, Vick must also recognize the bigger picture: the Jets have four quarterbacks on the roster, but they still won’t have legitimate starter when the Raiders walk into MetLife on Sept. 7.

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