The New York Jets quarterback situation will be hotly discussed this summer. While competition is the theme within the organization as we get closer to the preseason, the most crucial and most intriguing competition will naturally be a quarterback.
The Jets have five quarterbacks on their roster currently, even after the release of Tim Tebow, though that will reportedly be dropping to four now with the loss of David Garrard (via Kieran Darcy of ESPNNewYork.com). At least three of them have legitimate chances of starting as we approach the start of the preseason.
I will discuss the full depth chart and what the variables are for each of these quarterbacks in terms of what they need to do and what their abilities are.
Rookie quarterback Geno Smith is arguably the most controversial of the quarterbacks currently on the Jets roster. Without a doubt, he is the most unknown and unpredictable. A highly sought after college player, Smith had a well-known and heavily discussed draft-day fall. Instead of going high in the first round, as was expected, Smith fell not only to the second round but into the middle of it, where the Jets could take him at No. 39 overall.
Smith is the youngest of the Jets quarterbacks and appears to have the highest ceiling. There is a sense in which one could say that the Jets organization hopes that he will manage to win this competition. There are limits on what aging veterans can do, and if Smith can be starting quality right away then that bodes well for his future.
In an ideal world, Smith's 2013 summer would be analogous to the summer of 2012 for star quarterback Russell Wilson. Wilson went up against a well-respected veteran in Matt Flynn. Flynn was initially the favorite to win the competition, but Wilson was able to win by surprising and impressing coaches during the summer and in the preseason.
It is far from the case that Smith will get this job by default. The only way he can win the job right away for Week 1 would be for him to outperform expectations and learn the West Coast offense very quickly.
David Garrard is a veteran quarterback who has been in the league for a long time and has accomplished a great deal. As a former Pro Bowler who has seen success in the playoffs, Garrard has many positives to look back on. Nevertheless, his recent years have been somewhat disappointing. In fact, the situation he entered this year likely invoked déjà vu.
In each of the past two years, Garrard faced off in summer competitions against young first-round picks. Two years ago, in 2011, Garrard competed against first-round pick Blaine Gabbert in Jacksonville with the Jaguars. Then last year, in 2012, Garrard competed against Ryan Tannehill in Miami for the Dolphins. In each of these two years, while Garrard was arguably the favorite, a pair of injuries prevented him from playing.
While Garrard could have easily been viewed as the favorite once again this year based on his experience, he has for the third year in a row run into injury problems (as reported by Mike Garafolo of USAToday.com). According to the report, Garrard will soon be retiring. Apparently three season-ending injuries in a row was one too many, and that is understandable.
This is a tough loss for the Jets because having Garrard early in the season, even if Geno Smith were looking solid, could have allowed the Jets to avoid rushing Smith into too much pressure too early.
It is worth noting that the first game of the year happens to be against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who suddenly boast a nasty secondary that includes Darrelle Revis.
Of course we cannot forget Mark Sanchez, the former first-round pick in 2009 who has been the primary starter for this team for the past four years. Sanchez is at a fascinating point in his career. While he has been the starter for four straight years, the only four of his career, and has not faced much serious competition, one could claim that he is not the clear front-runner anymore.
Sanchez has had some success already, especially in the playoffs where he already has four victories. However, his regular-season play has been lacking, and his performances in the last season were not near the level where he had been prior. Sanchez's massive contract, with heavy guaranteed money, essentially guarantees him a roster spot for this season. Nonetheless, it does not by any means guarantee him playing time or the starting job.
Geno Smith is viewed as the future, and if he can play as well as Sanchez (or better) then the job should be his right away. However, if a stopgap is needed for the first few weeks or even for much of the season, then Sanchez is now the logical choice with Garrard out of the picture. It would be too risky now to not have Sanchez on the roster.
Greg McElroy is yet another intriguing candidate. While McElroy is a solid backup who should be able to earn a second-string position on at least a few NFL teams, it is questionable whether or not he will even be able to lock down a roster spot this year with the Jets and their cluttered quarterback position.
McElroy has been in the NFL and with the Jets for two years now. He has served reasonably well as a backup and in this past season even started a game, although the one start did not go very well. It seems unlikely that McElroy could provide any real competition against Geno Smith or even Mark Sanchez.
If it were not for the injury to Garrard, McElroy might have found himself searching for another team. However, with Garrard set to retire, McElroy now becomes to favorite for the third spot on the depth chart.
Who will win the starting job for Week 1?
The fifth and final player on the list and likely the fourth man now on the Jets' quarterback depth chart is Matt Simms. Simms came to the Jets last year as an undrafted rookie free agent. Through no fault of his own, he might find himself needing to find a new team. With the three more experienced and more valued quarterbacks above him on the depth chart, I do not see Simms finding a way to get a roster spot this year.
If it happens that Simms does not find a roster spot elsewhere then perhaps he will remain with the Jets on the practice squad.
More news is sure to follow as the competition heats up this summer.