Just two weeks ago, the New York Jets were riding high off an improbable win over the New Orleans Saints. Gang Green was in prime position to claim an unlikely playoff berth, and Rex Ryan was being talked about as a potential frontrunner for NFL Coach of the Year.
Oh my, have things changed.
New York has lost two straight games, both in embarrassing fashion, and the team is now buried deep in the AFC wild-card pool.
The Jets' recent collapse is directly related to the struggles of their rookie quarterback, Geno Smith. Smith has performed disastrously in recent weeks, and Gang Green has paid the price.
While New York's defense is the real deal, the team's playoff hopes will come undone by the inconsistencies of their rookie signal-caller.
Smith's stat line through eleven games is ugly: eight passing touchdowns to eighteen interceptions with just a 55 percent completion percentage and 62.1 passer rating.
However, Smith has had some positive performances—and each time he steps up, the Jets win.
In New York's five victories, Smith has thrown seven touchdowns and ran for three more, while tossing just four interceptions.
However, his play has not just contributed to all six of the Jets' losses, but it has been the main reason for the team's struggles.
|Statistic||In Jets' wins (5 games)||In Jets' losses (6 games)|
Smith leads the NFL in turnovers, and he has been a liability in seemingly every other week. For many Jets fans, he is a reincarnation of Mark Sanchez.
Will the Jets make the playoffs with Geno Smith as their starting quarterback?
However, the Jets cannot afford to bench the West Virginia product. A benching would not only stunt Smith's development, but it would prevent New York's front office from discovering whether Smith really is the answer at quarterback.
The Jets have an amazing defensive line, a stellar run defense, a fiery coach and an improved running game, but without a consistent quarterback under center, the team is sure to miss the playoffs for the third consecutive season.
The decision to start Smith cannot be deemed a smart or dumb one just yet. Years from now, we may look back on 2013 as the growing pains Geno Smith needed to develop into a franchise quarterback. Or we could see it as a missed opportunity to take advantage of a weak AFC field.