To put the quarterback competition into boxing terms, he needs to score a knockdown in the first round if he wants to have his hand raised when the regular season starts.
That's not a knock on Smith. With precisely zero snaps in an NFL game there's no real reason to love or hate anything he's done. For what it's worth, he's more than held his own against Sanchez in training camp according to these numbers tweeted out by Rich Cimini of ESPN New York.
Last year Ryan stuck with his quarterback through thick and thin as the Jets slogged through a 6-10 season. Sanchez made 15 of 16 starts as the team's quarterback despite posting his worst statistical season since his rookie campaign with 18 interceptions and nine fumbles to just 13 touchdown passes.
While there's no way to tell whether Tim Tebow or Greg McElroy could have made a difference, it was his refusal to make a change at the position until Week 16 when he gave McElroy the start against the San Diego Chargers that demonstrates Ryan's loyalty to Sanchez.
Well, that and the fact that the coach has a tattoo of his wife donning Sanchez's No. 6 jersey.
But the quarterback battle brewing in training camp isn't over by a long shot. Smith will have an adequate opportunity to prove himself throughout the exhibition slate.
According to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News, Smith won't get the start in the team's first preseason game against the Lions, but he will see snaps with the first-string offense.
That's a great sign for those who would love to see Smith unseat Sanchez. It proves that he will get every opportunity to prove his merit. However, that decision could be the result of pressure from general manager John Idzik, who reportedly wants Smith to win the job, per Mehta:
Although Smith didn’t get the start, it’s no secret that first-year GM John Idzik hopes his second-round pick wins the job. Idzik probably doesn’t have a No. 7 tattoo yet, but give it time.
While it appears that Idzik is in his rookie quarterback's corner, winning over Ryan will be another matter entirely. After all, Idzik is swimming in job security after being hired as the new general manager in January.
Ryan, on the other hand, has to be on the hot seat. After going 14-18 in his last two seasons with the Jets, the new general manager could be looking to make his own hire for the head coaching position if the team doesn't improve quickly.
That would mean he favors the more known commodity in Sanchez over the potential of Smith. That is, unless Smith makes it abundantly clear that he is superior to Sanchez throughout the preseason.
That starts with him putting together a great performance in the team's preseason opener.