FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — The New York Jets’ quarterback competition appears over before it even got started.
It’s Geno Smith’s job — and offensive coordinator Chan Gailey expects it to be that way heading into the season opener in September.
“Right now, Geno’s the starter,” Gailey said Wednesday. “Unless something happens — an injury, or something like that, that you don’t foresee — that’s how we anticipate it going.”
Coach Todd Bowles has said throughout the offseason that Smith would head into training camp taking the first-team snaps over veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick, who is recovering from a broken leg. Bowles wouldn’t go so far as to anoint Smith as his quarterback this season, saying it’s too early to make that decision.
But Gailey smiled when he was asked point-blank whether Smith would be the starter when the Jets open against Cleveland.
“Don’t make me say, you know, ‘yes,'” Gailey said, “but probably.”
It was a surprising declaration on what would normally have been a ho-hum day during organized team activities.
“He’s done enough good, quality things that he deserves the opportunity to be the guy,” Gailey said.
Smith has mostly struggled during his first two NFL seasons, throwing 34 interceptions and turning the ball over 41 times overall. The team also traded for Fitzpatrick, a veteran who worked under Gailey for three seasons in Buffalo and theoretically had a step up on Smith because of his familiarity with the offense.
Still, the Jets are opting to head into minicamp and training camp without a quarterback competition on tap.
“No, it wasn’t a thought,” Gailey said.
That’s because he liked what he had seen on film of Smith from last season, adding that the team decided in March that the 2013 second-round pick was the best option for the Jets to move forward with as the starter.
“He can make every throw in the book,” Gailey said. “He can make them all. You don’t find many that can do that, so you try to find a guy who can do that and give him every opportunity to be successful.”
Gailey said the Jets told Fitzpatrick, who had a six-touchdown game for Houston before his season-ending injury, that this would be the quarterback scenario when he was brought in.
“We didn’t try to pull the wool over anybody’s eyes,” Gailey said. “That’s exactly what we told him.”
Last season, the Jets had Michael Vick as Smith’s backup after signing him as a free agent. It was a similar setup, in which then-offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg and coach Rex Ryan made it clear to Vick that Smith was the starter — unless the young quarterback had issues on the field. Sure enough, Smith found himself on the sideline after throwing interceptions on three consecutive possessions in the first quarter of a blowout loss to Buffalo. Vick came in and started the next three games — before Smith was reinstalled as the starter.
Smith was mostly solid in his final four games, throwing six TD passes and two interceptions, while completing at least 57 percent of his throws in each. He had the best game of his career in the season finale, putting up 358 yards and three TDs while posting a perfect 158.3 quarterback rating at Miami.
“I think you see an awful lot of talent there,” Gailey said. “If we can get him to where he puts all of that together, I don’t know how good he can be. He can be pretty good.”
Gailey has built a reputation during his long NFL career for adjusting his offense to the talent on the roster, making productive quarterbacks out of the likes of Fitzpatrick, Kordell Stewart, Jay Fiedler and Tyler Thigpen. The Jets also added some playmakers, including trading for Brandon Marshall and drafting speedy wide receiver Devin Smith in the second round. With Eric Decker, Jeremy Kerley, Jace Amaro and Chris Ivory already on the roster and Gailey potentially sometimes using a spread-type offense, similar to the one Smith worked in at West Virginia, it would appear to be an ideal situation for the young quarterback.
“I feel like the system will fit to him,” Gailey said.
NOTES: DE Muhammad Wilkerson has been an expected no-show for OTAs as he stays away from the team during voluntary sessions as he awaits a new contract. … WR Brandon Marshall and DL Sheldon Richardson were no-shows Wednesday. Marshall had some matters to attend to after taking part in the first OTA session Tuesday. Bowles was uncertain as to when Richardson might show. “It is voluntary, so there’s not much you can do,” Bowles said, adding that Richardson has been “in and out” of the Jets’ facility. Mandatory minicamp is next month.
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