How Does David Garrard's Departure Impact the New York Jets' Quarterback Battle?

Gary DavenportNFL AnalystMay 15, 2013

ORCHARD PARK, NY - DECEMBER 30: Mark Sanchez #6 of the New York Jets calls an audible during an NFL game against the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium on December 30, 2012 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

There may well be no more muddied quarterback situation in the NFL than in the Big Apple, but things appear to have cleared a bit for the New York Jets.

Veteran quarterback David Garrard, who was signed in the offseason to ostensibly compete for the starting job for the Jets, instead didn't even make it to training camp.

The 35-year-old signal-caller, who hasn't played in the NFL since 2010 due to back and knee injuries, has decided to retire, telling Adam Schein of that his balky knee just isn't going to cooperate:

The news is hardly surprising. That same knee cost Garrard the entire 2012 season in Miami, and given his age and long layoff, the larger surprise likely would have been if Garrard had remained a serious contender in New York's quarterback competition.

That competition, for all intents and purposes, is now between two men.

On one side, you have the embattled Mark Sanchez. It wasn't that long ago that Sanchez was considered the future under center for the Jets, a player who led the team to within a game of the Super Bowl in each of his first two NFL seasons.

Now, however, that seems like a million years ago. After posting career highs in most statistical categories in 2011, the 2012 season was an absolute nightmare. The 26-year-old lost twice as many turnovers as he threw touchdown passes, finished the season as the 31st-ranked starting quarterback in the NFL, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), and saw his entire NFL career defined by one blooper reel.

Oh yeah, he's never living that down.

Bleacher Report's Ian Kenyon summed things up pretty well:

However, from Sanchez's viewpoint, it's hard to view Garrard's announcement as anything other than good news. The reason is simple. Many believed that not only was Sanchez in serious danger of losing the starting job, but also that a solid camp from Garrard could lead the Jets to sever ties with Sanchez altogether.

Now, however, Sanchez's roster spot (and $8.25 million guaranteed salary) would appear safe, at least for 2013. Regardless of how the battle under center plays out, the Jets are going to at least want a backup option with some experience.

In fact, there are still those who believe that the Jets are best-served by rolling with the veteran in 2013, including Manish Mehta of the New York Post:

If Rex Ryan has any pull, then Mark Sanchez will be the Jets starter in Week 1. #nyj

— Manish Mehta(@MMehtaNYDN) May 15, 2013

That sets the stage for a good old fashioned beat writer showdown because there are also those who feel that the future is now for Gang Green:

That camp, whose members believe that second-round pick Geno Smith should be the Week 1 starter for the Jets, have been buoyed by recent news.

According to Brian Costello of the New York Post, many members of the Jets' staff came away from New York's recent rookie minicamp "smitten" with Smith.

Smith was impressive during the two days of the mini-camp open to the media. His passes had great zip on them, and he looked more decisive as the practices went on as he got more comfortable in the offense. The 22-year-old was even more impressive off the field. He held players only meetings at the team hotel to learn the plays and handled the media like a longtime pro.

Smith, for his part, appears to be handling himself off the field with as much aplomb as he showed on it over the weekend.

After being raked over the coals by the media over the past couple of weeks, Smith was very diplomatic while discussing Sanchez and the quarterback situation in New York, according to Seth Walder of the New York Daily News:

“He’s a guy I’m going to be in competition with but at the same time I’m going to learn from,” said Smith [to ESPN Radio on Monday]. “He’s a professional, he’s done it for several years. He’s carried himself well in my opinion. Everything that he’s done, the ups and downs, the overall perception of him may be swayed depending on the games he’s played, but I think he’s a pretty good quarterback, and I look forward to competing with him and being around him.”

If Smith keeps this up, saying the right things off the field and showing the right things on it, then this "battle" is going to be over pretty quickly.

If anything, Garrard's announcement only accelerated Smith's ascension to the starting job. It seemed possible that the Jets might choose to use Garrard as a "bridge" to Smith. If the former had a strong camp, then they could bring the latter along more slowly.

However, it's much harder to imagine Mark Sanchez in that same role, especially if Smith has a solid camp. Sanchez was so horrific last year that inserting him as the starter is the same as writing off this year as a lost cause.

It's doubtful that Rex Ryan wants to do that—not in a year when he's fighting for his job.

That isn't to say Geno Smith is going to solve the New York Jets' problems at quarterback. We don't know that.

What we do know, at least if last year was any indication, is that Sanchez isn't the answer. We also now know that David Garrard wasn't either.

If nothing else, Mark Sanchez should be grateful for that.

Because Garrard's departure probably prevented Sanchez's.

At least for now.