Head Coach Stresses Competition But Then Gives Player Who Needs It Most A Pass?

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

It is a dangerous time to be New York Jets head coach Todd Bowles, this after the team on Wednesday announced via offensive coordinator Chan Gailey that Geno Smith was set to be the starting quarterback to begin the season.

What isn’t so scary is that Smith, a very mediocre quarterback, will be starting. He is a young quarterback and has shown flashes — albeit limited — of being a solid quarterback. The scary part is that Bowles and general manager Mike Maccagnan are making the same short-sighted mistakes the previous regime made.

If Smith had beaten out Ryan Fitzpatrick during training camp, winning the starting job over an established 11-year NFL veteran, then there couldn’t be any true complaints. Simply, it would be Smith being the best man and the quarterback who would give the Jets the best chance to win.

But this announcement, two months before training camp even starts, is not just bad timing but simply bad logic. It’s the type of thinking that got the last two general managers around here fired.

Neither Mark Sanchez nor Smith had a true, open quarterback competition during the previous six years, meaning that the Jets have anointed quarterbacks based on draft pick status or favoritism. That the team hasn’t made the playoffs in four years is born from that philosophy. What Sanchez and Smith both needed was competition under center to make them better, to sharpen their skills. If they lost the job, well then they lost it to someone who would give the Jets a better shot at winning.

Problem is neither quarterback was given the chance to lose the job. Both were handed their jobs despite resumes that suggested otherwise.

Neither has a competition to challenge them and now Sanchez is a backup quarterback with the Philadelphia Eagles. The early returns on Smith after two years? Not terribly promising, although admittedly it is still early.

What is concerning here is that Bowles came into the job preaching competition. Now with Wednesday’s news that Smith is the starter, Bowles has broken one of his core talking points.

Especially puzzling here is the timing of the situation. Two months before training camp kicks off is not the time to name a starter, especially when that starter is a young quarterback with nothing but a lackluster first two years to show for his efforts. Fitzpatrick may not be the answer under center for the Jets, but Bowles and his coaching staff are saying that it isn’t even necessary to compete for the most important position on the field.

Instead, just hand it to Smith now. Gailey even went so far as to say that Smith can’t lose the job based off of training camp or preseason. Talk about a bad message to send to the rest of the team.

Equally puzzling is that Fitzpatrick still isn’t a full-go in organized team activities. The injury that ended his season in 2014 still hasn’t been put to bed and he can only participate in 7-on-7 drills and the like. So the Jets are declaring Smith the starter without even getting the chance to see if the veteran Fitzpatrick is any better.

It is a short-sighted and discouraging decision by Bowles and Maccagnan, who had done so much good during free agency and the draft. But handing the starting job to an unproven quarterback without so much as a competition sends the wrong message to the locker room. It says that certain jobs are safe and that there are favorites on the roster, that no matter what you do in training camp or preseason that your job is safe if you’re “one of our guys.”

Fitzpatrick may ultimately prove to be inferior to Smith, but he should be given the chance by the Jets to showcase himself when he is fully healthy later this summer. There’s no reason why the Jets have to elevate Smith to being a starter right now at this moment in time in late May. All it does is tie their hands if Fitzpatrick plays better than Smith in training camp. The Jets have nothing to lose from an open competition and, in fact, everything to gain.

Instead, they’ve anointed a subpar quarterback with major question marks to be their starter. If Smith won the job outright, then no one could complain. But the Jets won’t even let it get that far. No competition at all. Smith hasn’t won anything. He’s been handed the job instead.

Perhaps the Jets are just content with mediocrity and Bowles’ assertions about competition were just bogus. If that’s the case, get ready for a fifth year without the playoffs.

Follow Kristian on Twitter at @KristianRDyer

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