Why Rex Ryan Must Commit to Geno Smith Sooner Rather Than Later

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystJune 6, 2013

After a nightmarish 2012 season under center, the New York Jets will be spending the summer determining who should be their starting quarterback.

It shouldn't take that long, as the smart play is to get rookie Geno Smith under center as soon as possible.

According to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, Smith is making a good impression on the coaching staff—and head coach Rex Ryan in particular—at the Jets' recent organized team activities.

Sometimes you want to see when a young quarterback comes in, is it too big for him? I don’t think it’s too big for him.  I think because there is a lot on your plate, you come in, you learn 50 plays or something like that, almost immediately – you learn different protections.  I think he’s doing a great job.  He’s on top of that.  I think the way he throws the ball, obviously you notice his physical skills.  He can throw it with anybody and I think that’s been impressive as well.

Offensive coordinator Marty Morninwheg recently told Connor Orr of the Newark Star-Ledger that "typically there will be a player at every position when there's competition that will rise above and beyond the other players and hopefully that's quick."

However, Kimberly Jones of the NFL Network dispelled the notion that the competition at quarterback is one that's going to be resolved quickly.

With that said, the quicker the Jets make the call and name Smith the starter, the better off the team is going to be in 2013 and beyond. That's because Smith can offer the Jets one thing that Mark Sanchez cannot: hope.

To give you a feel for the vibe surrounding Sanchez entering the 2013 season, here's a look at Ryan's comments about the fifth-year pro from Florio's article.

"I think when you come back you have to erase the computer. You start all over again and I think Mark’s done that and I think a bunch of us have done that."

It sounds like he's at a holiday gathering and trying to think of something nice to say about his weird cousin that wears a tinfoil hat and gives everyone cat food as a gift.

There's a reason Ryan wasn't exactly effusive in his praise of Sanchez—he was horrific in 2012.

When there's an entire highlight reel of a player's low points in a season, it isn't good. When several such videos are available on YouTube, it's even worse.

In 2012, Sanchez failed to top 3,000 passing yards for the first time since his rookie year. His passer rating was south of 70. He had only 13 touchdown passes, and a staggering 26 turnovers. Only one starting quarterback (Brandon Weeden of the Cleveland Browns) graded out worse, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).

By weight of comparison, let's contrast Sanchez's stats to PFF's 20th-ranked quarterback from 2012, Joe Flacco of the Baltimore Ravens.

Some may call that an unfair comparison, but Flacco graded out in the bottom half of the league, according to Pro Football Focus. This doesn't take his postseason heroics into account.

Simply put, Sanchez's trips to the AFC title game in his first two seasons now appear to be more in spite of what he did on the field than because of it.

He hasn't gotten any better. In fact, the opposite has been the case. Were it not for the albatross of an extension the Jets signed him to last year, he probably wouldn't even be on the roster.

So why are we even discussing him potentially being the starter?

This isn't to say that Geno Smith is going to swoop onto the field and save the day. Yes, he had a phenomenal senior season at West Virginia, topping 4,000 yards, tossing 42 touchdown passes and only throwing six interceptions.

However, much of that production was system-based. Smith won't have Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey to throw the ball to in New York. The Jets' top wideout, Santonio Holmes, is still rehabbing the Lisfranc injury that ended his 2012 campaign early. Stephen Hill is nicked up, too.

There's also the matter of Smith "turtling" under pressure. That trait was called into question during a poor outing by Smith against Kansas State last year, and again when reports surfaced claiming that he was leaving New York after falling out of the first round of the 2013 NFL draft.

Having a thick skin is a necessity if you're going to play professional sports in New York. There will no doubt be scathing reports in the New York Post every time Smith has a bad game. Welcome to the Big Apple.

Still, Smith handled Nolan Nawrocki's scathing (and borderline slanderous) scouting report in Pro Football Weekly and the post-draft brouhaha surrounding him firing his agents about as well as could be expected.

As to how he'll handle the pressure on the field? There's one way to find out. Roll him out there and see.

Odds are that at some point, Geno Smith is going to be named the starting quarterback for the New York Jets. Do it sooner as opposed to later, and not only do the extra first-team reps increase his chances of success, but the media will have one less thing to talk about.

Unfortunately, the Jets and logic appear to be embroiled in a nasty divorce, so this mess may well drag on throughout the summer.

For Jets fans, that's too bad. They've probably grown rather tired of the circus hanging around.


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