Only Way Gang Green Gets Great QB Play From A Starter Is For Him To Be Hungry

By Jason Keidel
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When word leaked out last week that Chan Gailey, the Jets’ new offensive coordinator, gave the starting quarterback gig to Geno Smith, you half-expected Rod Serling to tell you this was a preamble to the Twilight Zone.

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What has Smith done to inherit anything other than a place in the gaggle of competitors?

In his two years (30 games), Smith has completed a paltry 57.5 percent of his passes, thrown 25 touchdowns and 34 interceptions. Granted, he’s had a dearth of dominant teammates, and his former head coach considered offense his blind side.

But Smith has often looked lost on the football field. You recall the three picks he threw, at home, against Buffalo, in the first quarter, among the worst performances any QB has ever had. Smith has turned the ball over 41 times during his brief career.

So thank goodness for Todd Bowles, who put an end to the insanity by asserting that Smith would merely compete for the job, not inherit it. Like Rex Ryan, Bowles made his bones coaching defense. But he seems to realize that everyone, from the team to the media to the masses, deserves to watch Smith sweat for the starting gig.

Not that Smith is battling blue-chip prospects. Ryan Fitzpatrick has run through the NFL car wash — the Jets are his sixth team since 2005 — and Matt Simms doesn’t make anyone confuse him for his old man. Bryce Petty is perhaps the most naturally gifted QB currently on the roster, but he’s a rookie who never played under center at Baylor.

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Many fans lament the league becoming so quarterback-dependent. But it is what it is. If you don’t have a dominant QB, then you’d better have a robust defense, which the Jets should have, especially with Leonard Williams dropping into their laps during the draft, and the cornerback duo of Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie opting for another chapter in Florham Park during free agency.

It doesn’t take a Mensa member to realize the Jets will rely on the run and their defense, unless they somehow snag or mold a magical quarterback. But that blueprint is enough to get the Jets around .500, which would make Bowles’ maiden campaign a great success.

The NFL sells you on parity, presenting itself as the Horatio Alger of sports leagues, where the outhouse-to-penthouse season is a snap or two, a bounce or two, away for any team. It’s mostly a mirage, as the same teams — Seattle, Denver, New England, Green Bay, Pittsburgh, and any team with a sublime signal-caller — keep popping up every January.

The Jets don’t have one, and it’s nice to know that Bowles knows that. The only way to gain ground on the shell-shocked Patriots, who may play a quarter of the season without Tom Brady, is with intelligence and introspection.

The Jets have a chance to make a modest rebound, but the best way to spin a 4-12 season around is to guarantee no job. No one knows the NFL’s acronym and coda — Not For Long — better than Gang Green’s new coaching staff.

And if those men want to be more experiment than experience, it would be wise to keep the most essential spot in the sport up for grabs.

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Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel