By Ernie Palladino
» More Ernie Palladino Columns
It’s not often that two teams in the same city sign two veteran quarterbacks whose sum amounts to one big shoulder shrug.
That’s exactly what the Jets and Giants did the past few days when they added Josh McCown and Geno Smith, respectively, to their rosters. Without a hint of star power between the two, their signings raised barely a ripple, despite their jobs in the most important area on any pro football team.
Give general managers Mike Maccagnan and Jerry Reese this much: They did get their new guys cheap. Neither will be around long, since each is under a one-year deal. McCown — let’s call him Ryan Fitzpatrick Lite — came for $6 million, half as much as Fitzpatrick cost last year. Smith got $2 million for the honor of backing up the indestructible Eli Manning.
Neither finds himself in a position to do much lasting damage.
They won’t do a great lot of good, either, which makes you wonder why either GM bothered in the first place.
The Jets, rebuilding for the umpteenth time in their history, needed an extension of sorts to Fitzpatrick, a veteran mind who can start and perhaps teach Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg a thing or two about being a pro while they finish up polishing school. McCown can do that, as the 14-year veteran is known as a good guy in the locker room.
He can teach them work ethic. He can teach them how to keep one’s chin up when the rest of the world is collapsing around them. All good things.
What he can’t teach them is how to win, which happens to be the only trait by which a quarterback is judged. A lifetime of bad teams, most recently the hapless Browns, has left him with a career record of 18-42, and 2-20 over the last three years with Tampa Bay and Cleveland.
The Jets will go nowhere with McCown. But at least he’ll buy them a year to decide whether Petty or Hackenberg prove better options than 2018’s quarterback-rich draft. If he wins a few games before handing the keys to one of those two in 2017, so much the better.
In total, a ho-hum signing. No harm done. But no excitement generated, either.
Nothing to see here, folks. Move along.
So, too, with Smith.
The only curiosity here is why the Giants signed him at all. They’re not in the habit of charity signings. And it’s clear they can do more for Smith than he can do for them.
Still, at least they have Smith’s man-sized arm and child-sized brain in a position where he won’t do much harm. He’ll look great in that baseball cap as he follows Manning around with tablet in hand during games. Manning’s 211-game starting streak dating to 2004 assures fans and coaches alike that Smith will never see a post-preseason down unless Manning’s foot winds up under an anvil.
Smith knew that going in, and he appears to have accepted his position as student and scout-team leader.
One only hopes that he learned from his own encounter with IK Enamkpali’s fist two years ago to keep his mouth shut in the locker room. It’s unlikely the re-signed Jason Pierre-Paul or Smith’s ex-Jets teammate, Damon Harrison, will take with any like nonsense without a strong answer.
Assuming Smith does behave himself, the Giants have put themselves in the same shape, no worse, than in the previous three years with Ryan Nassib behind Manning.
If Eli gets hurt, the season goes down with him, anyway.
The Jets and Giants signed neither stars nor saviors. It’s even a stretch to call McCown or Smith placeholders.
Ineffectual? They define the word.
They merit neither wild celebration nor ticket-burning protests.
Just a shrug.
Follow Ernie on Twitter at @ErniePalladino