Why the New York Jets Must Start Geno Smith in 2013

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystMay 9, 2013

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 25:  Geno Smith of the West Virginia Mountaineers stands on stage prior to the start of the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall on April 25, 2013 in New York City.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

The New York Jets suffered through a miserable 2012 season, due in large part to some of the worst quarterback play in the NFL.

This year the team took steps to address the position in the 2013 NFL draft, and there's no point in waiting around for the proverbial "right moment."

The time to start Geno Smith at quarterback is Week 1 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Jets selected Smith with the 39th overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft, and just a few days ago team owner Woody Johnson told Don Banks of Sports Illustrated that he's looking forward to watching the West Virginia star compete for the starting job in the Big Apple.

"Absolutely [they'll compete]. We've been pretty consistent about that. Competition at every position, particularly quarterback. Competition makes you better. I would expect [Sanchez] to compete. He's under contract.''

That brings us to the biggest reason Geno Smith should start for the Jets from the get-go.

Mark Travis John Sanchez.

To say that Sanchez's 2012 campaign was a disaster is an insult to disasters. Among quarterbacks with more than 200 passing attempts in 2012, only Matt Cassel and John Skelton had a passer rating lower than Sanchez's 66.9.

Only Brandon Weeden of the Cleveland Browns ranked lower than Sanchez in Pro Football Focus' (subscription required) quarterback ratings last year.

Mark Sanchez is done, at least in New York. He's a $58 million anchor around the neck of the franchise, a quarterback whose confidence has been shattered into a million tiny pieces.

Starting him to kick off the season is the equivalent of raising the white flag and writing off the 2013 season as a lost cause.

And yes, the Jets could hand the reins to veteran David Garrard in the short term. However, Garrard is a 35-year-old quarterback who hasn't taken a snap since 2010 due to knee and back injuries. There's no guarantee he'll make it through training camp, much less a game.

There are those, including Bleacher Report AFC East Lead Writer Erik Frenz, who feel that the cautious approach is best with Smith, that "the Jets should not rush to judgment on their new young quarterback."

Frenz makes some good points. Smith will be learning a new offensive scheme in New York, and the supporting cast for the Jets isn't exactly what Smith had become accustomed to at West Virginia.

There's also the matter of Smith's maturity, or more appropriately his perceived lack of it.

Since firing his agents shortly after the draft, Smith has been ravaged in the media, with any number of reports surfacing that call his character into question.

However, as Bleacher Report NFL Draft Lead Writer Matt Miller pointed out, it's important to consider the source of some of these reports.

You mean Geno Smith fires his agents and then negative information came out about him? Nah...... (Duh, people. Duh)

— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) May 1, 2013


Granted, there's no pressure cooker in the NFL quite like playing quarterback in New York. After all, look at the number it just did on Mark Sanchez.

However, it's not going to get any easier for Smith. As the past couple of weeks have shown, every move Smith makes (or doesn't make) is going to be put through the wringer. Look at the amount of press dedicated to Tim Tebow, and he hardly played.

The expectations of some fans aren't going to change either. If you start Geno Smith now, they're going to expect him to lead the Jets to the playoffs.

If you start him later in the season once Sanchez has faceplanted or Garrard gets hurt, those same fans are going to expect Smith to reverse the team's fortunes on a dime.

Those expectations may not be realistic, but neither are many fans.

Smith's physical skills don't appear to be in question. His nearly 4,200 yards passing and 42 touchdowns last year in Morgantown speak to a player who would certainly seem athletic enough to excel in the NFL.

So far as to whether or not Smith has the mental makeup to be an NFL quarterback, especially one in New York, there's really only one way to find out.

Roll him out there.

Is it risky? I suppose, but at least there's some upside, a chance that Smith will take the opportunity and show that he's the latest rookie signal-caller ready to take over from the get-go.

Is there any upside to starting Sanchez or Garrard?


Besides, let's say, for the sake of argument, that Smith doesn't perform at a level like Robert Griffin III of the Washington Redskins, and instead has a first year similar to Ryan Tannehill of the Miami Dolphins.

Is that any worse than what Sanchez or Garrard would do?

Once again, nope.


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