Veteran quarterback David Garrard is officially unretired, and he must return to the New York Jets' active roster as a viable backup and a teacher to starter Geno Smith, who has taken the reins as the team's franchise quarterback.
With former first-round pick Mark Sanchez out for the season with shoulder surgery, the Jets have an immediate need for a viable backup QB. Unproven players like Brady Quinn and Matt Simms simply won't cut it, and Garrard is the perfect fit.
Garrard was on New York’s reserve-retired list after signing a one-year contract earlier this season, per Rich Cimini of ESPN.com. But he has been moved to the exempt list before the team finally must decide his fate Oct. 21.
The Jets must keep Garrard on the active roster not just for his ability on the field as Smith's backup, but also for the lessons he can teach the rookie about thriving and surviving in the NFL.
While it’s hard to tell how much the 35-year-old has left on the field, his experience and longevity in the NFL over the years would be invaluable to the development of a young star like Smith.
Garrard spoke to the Associated Press, via USA Today, about what he told New York general manager John Idzik and what influence he could have on Smith’s progression as a player:
I started to get some really good feedback while talking to him. I told him, 'Hey, if there's anything I can do to help you guys out in any kind of way, I know my veteran leadership in the meeting rooms, the practice fields and really helping Geno continue to grow, I would love to come back and help you guys.' Geno has the job. And if my number's ever called, I need to be ready for that.
There is no questioning that Garrard’s 10 years of pro experience would benefit Smith. The veteran would represent a reliable resource for the rookie to turn to when the issues that face NFL quarterbacks rear their ugly.
As great as his presence will be, though, there has to be legitimate concerns about what the veteran will bring on the field.
Garrard hasn’t played in the NFL since 2010 and has been dealing with knee injuries that caused his retirement in the first place. While he may be working out on his own, per Cimini, there is a big difference between being in good shape and being game ready.
One similarity between the two men is the ability to use their legs to get out of trouble. Garrard may not be able to pull the bootleg anymore with his knee problems, but the lessons he learned along the way about staying healthy when running in the opening field will help Smith become more dynamic.
So while Garrard may not be the best on-field backup, he's no worse than the Jets' current options and offers much more in terms of intangibles.
As a calming force by Smith's side who isn’t a legitimate threat to steal his job, using Garrard in this way is the ideal scenario for Smith to grow as a player and as a leader in New York.