There are a lot of questions about the Jets that need to be answered over the next month-and-a-half.
Nothing, not even winning a game, should come in between the Jets and their proper evaluation of rookie quarterback Geno Smith.
After last week's debacle against the Bills, rumblings are starting to surface that Geno Smith may not be the man for the job and that the Jets have at least considered the fact that Smith may not be the best quarterback under center right now.
Even if Smith is holding back the Jets from winning a few more games this year, the development of Geno Smith must take priority over the team's success over the next six weeks.
In an league that is driven by results and bottom lines, it may seem backward to have winning as a secondary priority to the evaluation of one player, but the truth is, evaluating Geno Smith properly is the key to setting the Jets up with winning seasons and division titles for years to come.
In other words, under no circumstances should the Jets relieve Geno Smith of his duties as the starting quarterback until they are absolutely certain that that he is not the long-term answer for them at quarterback.
This does not mean the Jets should try to lose games under any circumstance. Simply put, they must understand that in a few short months, anything short of a miraculous playoff run is all virtually the same in their eyes.
Geno's Time Was Inevitable
Even during the "competition" between Geno Smith and the previously-incumbent Mark Sanchez in training camp, the Jets knew that, even if Sanchez started the season, they had to know where they stood on Geno Smith by the end of the year. The only instance in which starting a healthy Mark Sanchez was possible for 16 games was if Sanchez was playing at a near-elite level and the Jets were guaranteed to make the playoffs.
Even the most casual observers who have witnessed Sanchez play in recent years know the sheer impossibility of that happening.
Geno Smith was always going to eventually start for the Jets, and giving up on him now is the worst possible decision the Jets could make.
Clearly, Geno's play over the past month is not up to a winning standard. He is having difficulty making quick throws on time, his comfort level in the pocket is at an all-time low and his turnover-happy ways from earlier in the season have made a fierce comeback.
|Geno Smith in Losses|
Now armed with a serviceable amount of pro tape on him, defenses are starting to formulate a way to beat Smith. His receivers have been inconsistent at best (when they are even available), and his offensive line is starting to break in a pair of two new starters—and the warts are beginning to show.
The rookie magic from earlier in the season is starting to wear off, and Geno is getting his first taste of what it is like for a professional athlete to face adversity in the toughest media market in the world.
Now, the Jets need to see how he reacts to it, even if it does cost them a game—or even a playoff spot.
The NFL is very much a "win-now" league, because the fans and media that watch and cover the game are not looking at the future like the real decision-makers do. After all, it is the media's job to cover the games and the fan's job to enjoy them on Sunday afternoons.
However, a year from now, who is going to care if the Jets won six games or nine games this season?
When the Jets are on the clock next May or when free agency opens up, their intel on Geno Smith will be infinitely more valuable than their record.
Recent success has skewed this perception, but right now, the Jets are playing with house money. With a brand new roster and a rookie quarterback, expectations were at an all-time low in the Rex Ryan era.
As you may recall, articles were being written about how Rex Ryan was a walking dead man:
Now that the Jets are 5-5, those expectations have suddenly risen. Because the Jets now find themselves poised to possibly secure a playoff spot, they are suddenly faced with big expectations, becoming the victim of their own success.
After all, it is not as if the Jets have been an overly dominant force, blowing away their opponents with ease. They have a negative scoring differential (183 to 268) after getting blown out by mediocre teams. Meanwhile, they have benefited from late-game miracles against the Buccaneers, Patriots and Falcons.
If it not were for Nick Folk's steel nerves, there would be less talk about the Jets making the playoffs and a lot more talk about Rex Ryan finding a new job next season. The Jets are winning, which is all but a bonus for a team that is in the middle of working out the growing pains from a front office power shift.
Even if benching Geno Smith was the difference between getting the Jets into the playoffs or staying at home, Smith needs to remain as the starter.
Winning a few extra games this season may sell a few more PSL or generate some good vibes around the franchise, but having it come at the cost of invaluable intel at the quarterback position would be nothing short of catastrophic.
For example, let's say the Jets bench Smith and stumble to an 8-8 record. Do they draft a signal-caller next year? In what round? Or should they roll the dice on another season with Geno?
What makes Smith such a tricky evaluation is that he has showcased the fact that he has NFL-caliber talent; after all, he was as much of a reason why the Jets had their come-from-behind wins this season as he has been a detriment in their losses.
So far, the results on Smith have been even through the first 10 games. At times, he flashes the makings of a franchise-caliber player, and then the following week, he is making Mark Sanchez look like a savior.
The Jets need to see how their quarterback responds to this adversity over the final stretch, whatever the cost may be.
Learning From the Past
While there are a lot of striking similarities between the rookie season of Smith and Mark Sanchez, they are both in very different situations, mostly because of the fact that Smith was taken over a full round after Sanchez was, who went fifth overall in the 2009 draft.
Because Geno was a second-round selection, John Idzik's reign as general manager will not be defined by how well he plays.
Unlike Sanchez, the Jets will not have to force-feed the idea of Smith being the franchise quarterback, even though both players were given an opportunity to start in their rookie season. While a second-round pick is certainly a valuable commodity, the Jets have an opportunity to be completely objective in their evaluation of Smith.
The Jets tried to convince themselves that "Sanchize" was the next Joe Namath. With Smith, they can sit back and wait for it to happen.
If Smith is not the answer, the Jets lose out on a second-round pick and will have to draft or sign a quarterback next year. While the situation is certainly not ideal, it at least will not set the franchise back another five years, wasting the talented players that are already in place.
On the other hand, if Smith turns out to be the real deal, the Jets have set themselves up to be playoff contenders for years to come.
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