Smith Deserves A Few Years To Prove Himself, Or Team Will Look Ridiculous

By Jeff Capellini,

Most of you wanted him and now you got him, along with all the craziness that’s sure to follow.

Now you just have to ask yourself how patient you plan to be.

Because no matter how you look at it, Geno Smith is going to struggle from time to time — perhaps even more than from time to time. And unlike in 2009, when rookie Mark Sanchez had but basically fleeting moments of continuous solid play during the regular season,  this Jets defense likely won’t be at the same level, at least initially, as that which at times helped hide the flaws of Smith’s predecessor.

I’d be prepared for just about anything because Smith is a great unknown. You know all about his college resume, but he only played a little more than one full game during the entire preseason. And he exited the exhibition schedule on such a down note it’s hard to envision him acting anything but his age once he comes out of the MetLife Stadium tunnel on Sunday against Tampa Bay.

But that’s not to say he’s not capable of surprising everyone and being good immediately. You just have to be mindful of the fact that right now probably the only person not affiliated with the Jets who thinks Smith can be successful right from the opening whistle is Smith, himself.

That’s the only way to start when most everyone has already counted you out.

As we all know, Jets fans may be the most fickle bunch in all of sports and the bottom line is the only thing they are interested in. But right now there are no alternatives. Whatever the endgame ends up being you have to figure Matt Simms and Brady Quinn will have absolutely no roles in the proceedings.

As for Sanchez, my feelings are simple. Now that the Geno era has officially begun, Sanchez can’t play another meaningful snap for this team again. You have to believe Smith is the guy that John Idzik wanted to start all along. Unlike Rex Ryan, Smith wasn’t forced on the new general manager. Smith was his choice in the draft. There’s simply no turning back now.

Executives prefer to be defined by their own decisions. That’s how they write their legacies. Ryan is a peculiar case, indeed, due to an owner in Woody Johnson who still sees something in a man that many others have long forgotten. That situation will play itself out, but much to Idzik’s probable chagrin Ryan is now tied to Smith. If the Jets win with this kid or are extremely competitive on a weekly basis, it may be that much more difficult for Johnson to let Ryan go at the end of the season. Hence leaving Idzik wondering if he’ll ever get to hire the coach he actually wants.

In my opinion, Smith must be afforded every opportunity to be the Jets quarterback for the foreseeable future. This cannot be a case of reassessing after this season with eyes on prospects like Teddy Bridgewater in next year’s draft. This is about commitment to one player and riding out every storm that follows, at least for a few years.

Contrary to popular belief, the Jets as a team were not a circus this past offseason. The combination of an overly aggressive and at times vindictive media, coupled with some rather odd decisions by Ryan, cast a dark cloud over what I would consider a representative summer and then preseason for a team that is completely in rebuilding mode. The Jets got younger, faster and a bit more versatile. What they lack in skill now, they’ve made up for by being fiscally conscious and by shedding most if not all of the dead weight that plagued the franchise over the previous two seasons.

The Jets basically put themselves in positions to be big-time players next offseason. They will probably have a decent pick in the draft, have a cap situation that will be quite favorable, and enough young pieces in place to build depth at positions for years. The rest is up to Idzik, the man brought here with a reputation for franchise-building.

The one thing the Jets cannot do again is draft another QB with the intention of another competition. The jury is still out on the one that just finished, with many people believing it was rigged or not quite as fair as advertised. I had no problem with Sanchez playing in the fourth quarter against the Giants, and find it absolutely hilarious that after all we saw in the preseason — with each QB less than scintillating — Sanchez had somehow locked up the gig due to Smith’s bad first half. But the world went after Rex and he got miffed in the press conference and away we all went — away from looking at this preseason objectively and toward more of the nonsense that always seems to define the Jets’ relationship with the media, and with it, much of the public.

Knowing what we know, if the Jets were to target another quarterback in next season’s draft then we’d really have a circus. Many people may not care what the media thinks, but let’s be honest, the atmosphere around this team stinks when both sides are being defiant.

The bottom line, for now anyway, is the Jets  are going with a player who has the potential to be very good at the most important position on the field. Smith may not be a savior, but I would wager he could easily be better than what Sanchez was during his rookie season. He simply has better tools.

Will that translate into wins? It’s impossible to say. But sometimes it’s better to put your faith in the devil you don’t really know instead of the one you know all too well.

And if Geno struggles, throws a million interceptions or can’t hit the broadside of a barn from 10 feet away, too bad. You can’t scream for Sanchez to return. The hypocrisy of such a demand would be staggering.

Sanchez is the guy most everyone wanted out after being the face of ineptitude for two years. He’s the one who turned the ball over 50 times in that span. He’s the one who wasn’t good enough to elevate the play of the people around him.

Smith very well could be. And nothing short of your undying devotion to him is required.

Because sooner or later the Jets have to be 100 percent about forward progress. In a lot of ways they are getting there. But it all starts and ends with the quarterback — the guy who puts the go in “go time.”

Sanchez had put a stop to all of that, but the light just turned green again — regardless of what Smith has under the hood straight off the showroom floor.

Read more columns by Jeff Capellini and follow him on Twitter at @GreenLanternJet

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