What started out as a six-man battle royale for the New York Jets starting quarterback spot is down to four before the start of training camp.
First, the Jets informed Tim Tebow that he had been released. Second, veteran quarterback David Garrard on Wednesday told two players that he would no longer be with the Jets (according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network).
QB David Garrard told 2 players he no longer plans to be with the #Jets, per sources. Nothing official from team. Unclear if cut/retired— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) May 15, 2013
Garrard's stat line sets the tone for his career as a serviceable but unspectacular quarterback, with a career 61.6 completion percentage, 7.02 YPA and 85.8 passer rating, but despite two years away from football with back and leg injuries, he was seen as a legitimate candidate for the Jets starting job.
At 35 years old, though, there was never a chance of him being the long-term answer for the Jets at quarterback.
With two big names out of the equation, we are looking at what has essentially become a two-horse race for the starting job in 2013, between incumbent Mark Sanchez and rookie Geno Smith. Sure, backups Greg McElroy and Matt Simms are a part of the competition, but it would be a huge shock for either of them to win the job outright in camp.
As for Sanchez and Smith, there are merits to starting either one.
The Jets could try to get Sanchez reacquainted with the West Coast offense, which he ran at USC. There are reasons to think that offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg's system could be good for Sanchez, who had a league-leading 50 turnovers over the past two seasons. That being said, it may be too late for Sanchez, who has already been through the wringer of the NFL and the New York media.
The Jets screwed up Sanchez's development, and there are valuable lessons to be learned from that failure.
Who should start?
After getting good value for Smith in the second round of the draft, there's no pressure to start him immediately and it wouldn't be an awful idea for the Jets to let him ride the bench for a year as he learns the offense. They are not yet fully equipped to groom a young quarterback, and could buy themselves another year to put the pieces in place.
They could also just hold his feet to the fire in his first year, which would allow them to get a read on him as a player as soon as possible.
While there may be some short-term ramifications to Garrard's departure, the long-term impact is minimal. The situation is the same as it ever was: Barring a big-time turnaround from Sanchez, the mantle of "quarterback of the future" is Geno Smith's to lose.
Erik Frenz is also a Patriots/AFC East writer for Boston.com. Follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates. Unless otherwise noted, all stats obtained from the Sports-Reference.com network or ProFootballFocus.com's premium section, and all quotes obtained firsthand or via team press releases.