By Jeff Capellini, WFAN.com
There really needs to be no more talk of anyone other than Geno Smith being the starting quarterback of the Jets.
You’d be amazed just how detached from reality some people are.
There are many crazies out there that just can’t let go of the idea of Mark Sanchez one day riding in on a golf cart and getting his old job back. Better yet, there seems to be a growing contingent of Matt Simms supporters who are still living on a fourth preseason game and a dream.
It really needs to stop.
Smith is the guy. He’s more or less been the chosen one since new general manager John Idzik blew into town from Seattle. Well, Idzik may not have known when he took the job who his quarterback was going to be, but I’m fairly confident any notion of Sanchez or anyone else who had been on the roster getting the nod was nothing but misdirection.
I have no idea if the Jets had rigged the quarterback competition prior to Sanchez’s injury. Frankly, I don’t care. The fact is Smith, despite his several miscues over the first two weeks of the regular season and the probability that he’ll commit many, many more as the temperature continues to drop, has already shown enough to warrant riding him for as long as it takes for him to become a very good quarterback in this league.
Smith has a bit of an “it” quality. He’s got a big arm and better than average feet. More than that, he seems to have a lot more patience than his predecessor. He seems to know when to throw the ball away or eat it under pressure. He knows how to set up a screen, something the Jets had been allergic to for decades. Most importantly, Smith has a fearlessness quality about him that’s admirable. If he makes a mistake his body language doesn’t suggest he’s done with whatever idea that just failed. He just gets back up on the horse.
Many Jets fans want the best quarterback available under center because they are under the impression that this team can make the playoffs. I don’t think they will get there, but I would be the least shocked person in the Tri-State Area if they end up making life miserable for opponents with legitimate playoff aspirations as the season moves toward December.
As long as the Jets rally behind Smith they will only get better, because he will only get better. Sure, the running game is still a work in progress as well and the receiving corps has left a lot to be desired, but with each passing day it becomes more and more apparent that this defense isn’t going to go AWOL. If the Jets stay healthy, get guys like Quinton Coples back to 100 percent sooner rather than later, there’s no way what you have seen so far, which has already been very good, won’t become even better.
The Jets will continue to be in every game they play, more or less. Smith just needs to find ways to stick the ball in the end zone.
Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg loves to throw the ball. So much so that he’ll often abandon a successful running game just to get his fix. It could become an issue as the season progresses, but for now that philosophy plays to Geno’s strengths. If the running game continues to perform like it did last week up in New England — 100 yards on 25 carries — there should be opportunities for Smith to further his maturation as a down-field thrower. And while it’s true nearly all of the receivers need to invest in Stickum, I cannot imagine the drops continuing at the alarming rate we’ve seen since training camp started. Sooner or later the light will go on, or we’ll see more of Ben Obomanu and who knows who else.
Hey, whatever it takes.
Right now the Jets are doing a public disservice to Smith by maintaining that he’s their week-to-week starter. It needs to be about conviction, having the wherewithal to say this is our guy and we’re sticking with him come hell or high water. Short of the Jets just playing mind games with the media, I see no way how anointing Smith just weekly does anything good for the franchise and the fan base.
Sanchez is a talented kid, but for whatever reason he’s been unable to take his game to another level. Plus, he’s not coming off anything positive over the last two years that would lead anyone to believe that he can suddenly unzip himself and step out as anyone other than who he is. The idea of him one day getting a start should be the last thing on anyone’s mind. If he’s healthy and Smith gets hurt, fine. The Jets have to play someone. But this thinking that he can write one of the great rags-to-riches stories in NFL history is something reserved for Hollywood screenwriters, not for folks who pay ridiculous prices to watch a team that, let’s be honest here, has only gotten the quarterback position right a few times in its history.
The fan base needs to grow with Smith. There will always be those individuals who are never happy about anything. There’s nothing you can do about them. But speaking from experience, and from talking to a lot of people who have both an emotional and professional stake in how the Jets do, there are a lot more folks out there willing to take the lows and moments of clarity that will come with Smith than the lows and brutal teases that will always come with Sanchez.
As for Simms, he’s a nice story, but he’s not an investment. In the NFL, money and draft status talks. The Jets may not want to admit it, but they know it all too well. They traded up for Sanchez, had some success with him and then rewarded him, but not because he deserved that extension. It turns out they misjudged his overall value in a fit of desperation.
Right now, the only value Smith has is the value that matters — as a player with tons of ability who is not hurting their bottom line in any way. And as long as Geno is not making big money the Jets can afford to see where this goes without the crushing pressure that comes with being forced to play a guy they don’t believe in just because he holds the team’s salary cap future in his hands. Smith may end up being one of the great values in the entire league, but first the Jets have to get behind him as if they have no other options and, more importantly, don’t want any.
If by not naming Smith the permanent starter the Jets are in some way trying to test him they are doing him a disservice. That type of mental warfare rarely works. It only alienates the individual and forces the masses to continue choosing sides.
The Jets can’t be about factions anymore. They need to be about continuity. And only a united front behind the most important position on the field is going to begin to bring stability to a franchise that is seemingly always in-flux.
The Jets shouldn’t wait for Smith to prove them wrong. They, for once, should act like they knew they were right all along.
Read more columns by Jeff Capellini and follow him on Twitter @GreenLanternJet
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