It seems that with each passing week in his erratic rookie season, Geno Smith either reaches a new high or plummets to a new low. Many would argue that during the fourth quarter of the New York Jets' dreadful 40-point loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 8, Smith's rock bottom was redefined once again.
After throwing his second pick-six of the game, and his third in two weeks, Smith was benched for the first time in his young career. However, Rex Ryan replaced his rookie signal-caller with Matt Simms long after the game had been decided.
By the time the Jets dragged themselves into the visiting locker room for halftime, they had already surrendered an inexplicable 28 points, and had looked utterly inept offensively. Then, after a halftime address from Rex Ryan that was likely an astounding exhibition of profanity, Smith promptly threw his 12th interception of the season, handing the Bengals another six points.
Ryan didn't bench Smith in an attempt to win the game. Instead, putting Simms under center was simply a waving of the white flag for the Jets.
Ryan has been reluctant to bench Smith all season. In large part because there is simply no telling how he'll perform from one week to the next.
Many Jets fans wanted Smith benched after his pitiful outing against the Titans in Week 4. The former West Virginia Mountaineer committed four turnovers and looked generally incompetent as the Jets fell to the Titans 38-13.
Then came Smith's Monday Night Football debut in Atlanta. The 23-year-old looked as though he had finally learned something from his mistakes. He played turnover-free football, threw for three touchdowns and led the Jets to a thrilling late-game victory.
This bewildering pattern has continued ever since.
Against Pittsburgh, Smith regressed. En route to a 48.8 quarterback rating, he threw two more interceptions and was noticeably flustered by a Pittsburgh defense that had yet to win a game, per NFL.com.
Following the Pittsburgh debacle, Geno Smith bested Tom Brady and the Patriots in overtime. Though he was far from perfect, Smith helped the Jets overcome a 21-10 halftime deficit and topple the AFC East's perennial bully.
The polarity in Smith's performance can likely be attributed to a host of variables.
Firstly, he's a rookie. Ups and downs are inherent to all rookie athletes, especially NFL quarterbacks. However, the discrepancy between his ups and downs happens to be of an alarming magnitude. On one hand he has managed to lead the Jets to a surprising 4-4 midseason record, notching several promising performances and keeping the Jets relevant.
On the other hand, he has thrown 13 interceptions and is completing only 59.3 percent of his passes, per NFL.com. His inconsistent play can keep the Jets in any game or singlehandedly take them out of one. Thus, his future remains immensely unclear.
It doesn't help that the Jets are short on offensive weapons. If the Jets had a consistent running back or game-changing receiver, perhaps Geno could ease into a less pivotal role on the team. When he falters, the Jets tend to crumble around him.
Moreover, Smith's worst performances of the season have been accentuated by equally poor performances from the Jets' defense. In the Jets' last three losses, Gang Green has surrendered 106 points. Granted that Geno has been accountable for more than a few of those points, the Jets will need to shut teams down defensively if they want to surpass mediocrity.
No one knows what the second half of the season will bring for Geno Smith and the New York Jets. The Jets want desperately to win two games in-a-row and gain some momentum. However, it seems the longer their seesaw tendencies persist, the more distant that goal appears.
The fact remains that Geno is the Jets' best option at quarterback. He has proven he can run the offense effectively and remain calm in pressure situations. He has also proven, through his inconsistency, that he simply cannot be relied on to carry the Jets every Sunday.