New York Jets: Geno Smith Must Win the Starting Quarterback Job

Mike SalvatoreCorrespondent IIIMay 16, 2013

When the New York Jets signed quarterback David Garrard, the hope was that he would provide the necessary competition to bring out the best in Mark Sanchez or push him out the door. Once Geno Smith fell to the Jets during the NFL draft last month, the hope was that Garrard would provide valued veteran leadership and mentor the young quarterback.

However, all those plans went out the window when Garrard officially retired earlier today (via The New York Times), leaving the Jets with a competition between the incumbent Sanchez, and the untested rookie in Smith.

With the season still months away, there is plenty of time to debate who should be the starting quarterback come Week 1, but quite honestly there should be no debate.

Geno Smith must be the starting quarterback when the Jets open the 2013 season.

Now I know this might seem like a brash move, but here's why it makes sense.

The Jets need to know exactly what they have in Geno Smith. And since the team only invested a second-round draft pick to get him and because there's a much stronger quarterback class projected for next year's draft, the team needs to find out sooner rather than later whether Smith is their franchise signal-caller.

Some pundits might argue that the talent around Smith might make it damn near impossible for him to succeed, and admittedly there are few playmakers on the roster outside of Chris Ivory and Santonio Holmes.

However, look at the success of the rookie quarterbacks from last season, specifically Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson and Andrew Luck. Their play was especially impressive when one considers the offenses they inherited. Luck’s primary weapon was a skilled but aging Reggie Wayne. No one in Washington knew what they had in Alfred Morris, and the big-ticket free agent was Pierre Garcon. Wilson was able to rely on Marshawn Lynch, but he had a relatively pedestrian receiving corps with which to work.

Sure you can make the case that Griffin and Luck were once-in-a-generation talents, but the talent they had around them in their first year was noticeably lacking in certain areas. Not to mention that Wilson was a third-round draft pick who was deemed to short to succeed in the NFL, yet he found a way to take the Seahawks to the playoffs.

Also, if we’re being honest, what would it say about Smith if he was unable to beat out Sanchez for the starting job? Mark Sanchez has regressed so much over the past two seasons that his starts have become must-see TV for all the wrong reasons.

Unless Sanchez sets the world on fire during training camp, there should be no reason that Smith couldn’t and shouldn’t beat out Sanchez. A failure to do so should immediately raise eyebrows in the organization about Smith’s chances to succeed as a franchise quarterback.

The fact that Sanchez is on the hook for over $8 million this season is hogwash, like with Russell Wilson in Seattle last year, the better quarterback should start Week 1.

Rex Ryan may provide the biggest hurdle to Smith’s chances at winning the starting job, as he has all but fallen on his sword for Sanchez in the past. As the coach enters this season firmly in lame-duck status, he needs to win as many games as possible to save his job, and may balk at starting the rookie.

Ultimately, Geno Smith needs to prove right away that he is the superior quarterback to Mark Sanchez. There may be plenty of ups and downs this season, but the Jets need to see if Geno Smith is the man to lead the team out of the darkness.