FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Geno Smith believes he is still the answer.
Yes, he knows he needs to get a lot better, and fast.
But he also thinks the New York Jets’ search for a franchise quarterback, a mostly fruitless task since the days of Joe Namath, could end right in front of their eyes.
Despite the boos, increasing criticisms and calls for Michael Vick.
“Well, that’s still to be set,” Smith said when asked Wednesday if he’s a franchise-type QB.
“Obviously, it’s my goal, but we’ve got to work toward that and we’re still working toward that and I do believe that I am. But we’ve just got to continue to work on it.”
Rex Ryan and the Jets are sticking with Smith, and their public support for him hasn’t wavered. Smith knows he needs to deliver, though. With five interceptions and two lost fumbles in four games, there needs to be improvement Sunday at San Diego.
Otherwise, it could be time for Smith to sit and Vick to come in — a scenario some considered inevitable even before the season began.
“It’s about wins and losses,” Smith said. “We’ve got to win more games. Ultimately, that’s the only thing. I don’t think it’s about anything other than that.”
Smith insists the pressure isn’t getting to him, but yelling an expletive at a heckler after the Jets’ 24-17 loss to Detroit last Sunday suggested there’s perhaps a slight crack in what had previously been considered thick skin. He expects to get a letter from the NFL about that, and a fine, too.
“Always be above the situation,” he said. “Never let people get to you. Never let anyone’s words affect you in that manner. It’s something I’ve already known, but I’ve just got to handle those situations better.”
A few minutes later, though, Smith bristled when he was asked if there’s any value in playing Vick for a quarter in a game — which means Smith, obviously, would be sent to the sideline.
“I don’t know what you’re trying to lead to with that question,” he said. “Maybe that’s your opinion. That is not a question.”
When the reporter suggested putting Vick into a game could provide a spark, Smith responded: “As a spark? What do you mean a spark? We’ve already put him in.”
Vick has seen limited snaps as Smith’s backup, throwing one incomplete pass and rushing once for 3 yards. He didn’t get into the game against the Lions, even as fans at MetLife chanted for him to replace Smith.
So, Smith was asked if it could help the Jets by putting Vick in for not just a play or two, but an entire quarter — and he, predictably and understandably, got testy.
“It doesn’t make sense,” Smith said. “What team do you see doing that?”
The bottom line, though, for the Jets is this: They are committed, for now, to Smith. They want to find out for sure whether he is that franchise-type quarterback, and so far they’ve had 20 games to evaluate him.
“I believe in myself 100 percent,” Smith said. “But I do understand that we’ve got to play better. And I’m being hard on myself, making sure that any little detail, nothing will slip by.”
With Miami, Buffalo and New England all 2-2 and the Jets 1-3, the AFC East appears to be wide open. So, Ryan needs to find the delicate balance between developing the young quarterback and preserving the season.
After previously saying it would be a “Jets decision,” Ryan also clarified that any lineup changes are his call entirely — including whether Smith should be benched for Vick.
“I just thought it was so obvious that, obviously, in my position as the head coach you are going to make decisions during a game — who else is going to make them?” Ryan said. “I’m not going to call (former lineman) Randy Rasmussen up and say, ‘Hey, Randy what do you think?’ Or anybody.
“That falls on my shoulders, and I think it’s obvious. What became obvious is that I should have handled that question differently.”
Smith said he hasn’t lost any confidence during this rough stretch, and his focus is on the Chargers — not what is being said outside the facility.
“I never needed to be reassured,” Smith said. “I’ve always had confidence in my coaches and I believe they’ve always had confidence in me. They’ve expressed those things, but I don’t get caught up in that.”
That said, Smith knows what the statistics look like and where the Jets stack up in the standings. He also realizes that how he plays Sunday could go a long way in setting the tone for the rest of the season. For him, and the rest of the team.
“My progression is, obviously, I’m getting better, but it’s all about wins and losses and I’m trying my best to help us win these games,” he said. “So I’m going to be extra critical on myself this week to make sure that I have to be nearly perfect in order to help us win games.”
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