If the New York Jets could straighten out their quarterback situation, many of their organizational troubles would dissipate. It doesn't matter if that signal-caller is young, either. Just ask the Indianapolis Colts, Washington Redskins or Seattle Seahawks.
Sure, finding the right quarterback is easier said than done.
But with the right one, all the criticism and mockery Gang Green takes from the media and fans would fall by the wayside.
Week 1 of the 2013 NFL season is upon us, so let's dissect the Jets quarterback situation and project what the future holds for New York at football's most vital position.
Is Geno Smith The Future?
The Jets didn't draft Geno Smith in the second round of the 2013 draft to be a career backup. Actually, after two catastrophic seasons from Mark Sanchez, the former West Virginia star was likely picked to be Sanchez's successor—if not an immediate replacement.
While it's decidedly too early to decide whether or not Smith is the answer, he's much more NFL-ready than Sanchez was when he was picked No. 5 overall in the 2009 draft.
Smith started three seasons in Morgantown and threw 1,465 passes in college.
Sanchez was the full-time starter for only one season at USC and attempted 487 passes during his time with the Trojans.
His coach, Pete Carroll, may have foreshadowed Sanchez's NFL struggles in this press conference in the spring of 2009:
Smith is further along in the individual development process than Sanchez was a rookie. The Jets coaching staff will be integral in Smith's future maturation under center, but he has much more upside than Sanchez ever had.
That alone should be encouraging for the New York faithful.
No, Smith isn't Andrew Luck 2.0. However, he's undoubtedly malleable. Patience will be key with Smith, and if the Jets exercise it while providing adequate protection in the pocket, giving him simple reads and playing sound defense, he could become the quarterback that New York desperately needs.
Mark Sanchez's Contract Situation
Mark Sanchez has gone from starting quarterback in consecutive AFC title games to New York pariah in only two seasons.
After a ghastly finish to the 2012 campaign, he was an obvious cap casualty candidate this offseason but was saved by the contract extension former GM Mike Tannenbaum gave him in March that fully guaranteed his 2013 base salary of $8.25 million.
Sanchez had his moments in the preseason and had a chance to win the starting job to begin the year.
However, when he injured his shoulder in the third exhibition outing, everything changed.
NFL.com's Ian Rapoport tweeted the following about the perceived severity of Sanchez's injury:
Rapoport (@RapSheet) September 2, 2013
Brady Quinn was signed as insurance while Sanchez is nursed back to health.
If Smith struggles significantly, Sanchez could see the field in 2013, but one would have to think he's nothing more than a stop-gap option at this point.
The veteran quarterback is set to make $9 million in base salary next season and is due a roster bonus of $2 million in March of 2014.
His guaranteed salary of $8.25 million should keep him in a Jets uniform for the remainder of this season, but it would take somewhat of a miracle resurgence or a dramatically restructured contract for Sanchez to be on the team beyond 2013.
Rex Ryan's Job Security
Much of what we'll see in the future at the Jets quarterback position hinges on who's manning the sidelines.
Rex Ryan has been somewhat married to Sanchez, as the quarterback was the first selection of Ryan's head-coaching tenure in New York in 2009.
He's stuck with Sanchez through thick and thin, but a legitimate succession plan rightfully materialized when new GM John Idzik took over.
Ryan certainly could be fired if the Jets continue to display vast offensive ineptitude in 2013, regardless of who the quarterback is.
Furthermore, if New York overachieves—which is obviously a subjective term—and wins, say, six or seven games, Ryan could be safe. That probably wouldn't save Sanchez, but it would be an encouraging development for Smith.
If Ryan is canned at season's end, Smith will find himself in an unenviable situation.
While a new coach may love the idea of inheriting a second-round quarterback with potential, many like to acquire "their" signal-caller to lead their team into the future.
Even if Smith has a new coach to which he has no ties next year, he won't be cut. He could, however, find himself in another quarterback competition—one that may not begin in his favor.
Other Quarterback Possibilities
Matt Simms and Brady Quinn are the other quarterbacks on the roster, but neither have any real shot to become the Jets franchise signal-caller.
If New York bottoms out this season—something that will be hard to do with Ryan's defensive acumen— and secures a top-five draft selection, there are a variety of enticing quarterback prospects who could be targeted by what likely will be a new coaching staff in April.
Based on the consensus expectations, the Jets will almost assuredly head into the 2014 season without Mark Sanchez. Rex Ryan could be gone too. The malleable Geno Smith will be on the roster. But predicting anything else at New York's quarterback position is impossible right now.
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