There are a handful of winter rituals in New York. A gigantic Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center. Horse-drawn carriages through Central Park.
Oh, and of course, a quarterback controversy for the New York Jets.
Whether it's Brett Favre trying to play through a torn biceps tendon or Mark Sanchez inventing new ways to turn the ball over, Jet starting quarterbacks have made a tradition out of creating demand for the backups in the late season.
Geno Smith has followed in these inauspicious footsteps. His shockingly incompetent numbers have gotten more attention than a storefront display on Madison Avenue. But in the spirit of the giving mood, I'll show them again.
In the past seven games, he has thrown one touchdown and 11 interceptions. He has not thrown for more than 160 yards in a game since the Oct. 20 win against the New England Patriots. His quarterback rating on Sunday against the Miami Dolphins was 8.3. Anytime your quarterback rating looks like a Nielsen rating for a Charlie Brown Christmas rerun, you're in trouble.
But despite the surplus of evidence that Geno Smith belongs on the bench, the Jets are in a position where they need to keep him under center for their final four games.
Playoffs are Unlikely
The Jets are mathematically still alive in the hunt for the second wild-cart spot in the AFC. In fact, the delirious Jets fan in me has mapped out a road to the playoffs for them via the ESPN Playoff Machine.
But, to return to reality, Week 17 will most likely end the Jets' 2013 season, since they would probably have to beat the Carolina Panthers and the Dolphins on the road just to have a shot at the postseason. Considering that Carolina is a legitimate Super Bowl contender and Miami just manhandled the Jets at MetLife Stadium, such an outcome seems doubtful at best.
Football Outsiders puts a figure to the Jets gloom:
So there's not much risk in losing most or even all of their final four games. Besides for bragging rights with the Buffalo Bills, there's little difference between finishing 5-11 compared to 7-9. If Jets fans and CBS announcers can stomach watching what could potentially be more gruesome play by Geno Smith, then the other consequences are negligible.
In fact, allowing the possibility for Smith to rack up three-and-outs on the way to some lopsided losses would favor the Jets in next year's draft. The standings are crowded with four- and five-win teams. One loss could be the difference of a half dozen spots in the draft order come April 2014.
Jets fans, as a result, shouldn't be too concerned about Smith leading the team to victory, since their win-loss record appears to be a win-win situation.
Lack of Alternatives
There are only two other quarterbacks on the Jets roster at the moment, since Sanchez is on injured reserve following his infamous shoulder injury.
The first, David Garrard, has some proven success. He threw 23 touchdowns in 14 starts last year for the Jacksonville Jaguars. His 90.8 quarterback in 2012 is better than that of any Jets starting quarterback since 2004.
However, Garrard is 35, and since the Jets focus these past few weeks has switched from this year's postseason to long-term sustainability, there's really no point in playing him.
Matt Simms is the other option. Many Jets fans have begged for Simms to replace Smith in recent weeks. Perhaps Simms could provide some relief under center for the final four games—he did win the backup job with an impressive preseason performance.
But what really are the chances that Simms is the quarterback of the future? He was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2012 after seeing limited playing time at the University of Tennessee. Moreover, he was ranked the 25th best quarterback of the 2012 draft class by CBS Sports.
In last week's loss against Miami, Simms did not fare much better than Smith. He went 9-of-18 for 79 yards, threw a red-zone interception and botched a handoff that led to a fumble.
Regarding him as the future under center for the Jets is betting on the likelihood that he is the next Kurt Warner or Tony Romo—an unheralded, undrafted quarterback who becomes the linchpin of a franchise.
Simms is not an unskilled player. He has a strong arm—watch him zip some passes to receivers while moving out of the pocket in the above video from the preseason. Plus, his mediocre performances in this year's regular season were probably in part a function of only getting backup reps in preparation for opponents during the week.
But considering him the answer to the Jets' decade long quarterback problem is a reaction rooted in Smith's poor play, not in a calculated assessment of Simms' abilities, which have never shown star potential.
Determining Draft Needs
The 2014 NFL draft, depending on whether several players choose to stay in school, could have a deep class of quarterbacks. The Jets need to figure out if they will be drafting one of them. In that sense, this final month of the season will serve as a four-game tryout for Smith.
It's not really a fair situation for Smith, since it's near impossible to properly evaluate a quarterback by putting him behind the Jets' porous offensive line and giving him a dearth a weapons to throw to. The league's best signal-callers would be hard pressed to succeed under such conditions.
But the Jets need to do the best with what they have. They don't want to regret not drafting a quarterback if September 2014 rolls around and Geno Smith is putting up single-digit quarterback ratings again.
UCF's Blake Bortles is an intriguing option. Although he has not yet decided whether to declare for the draft, the Jets should keep an eye on him. While he lacks Smith's raw arm strength, his size and ability to extend plays have him shooting up recent draft boards.
Watch the final play in the highlight video below. Bortles fumbles the ball, recovers it, scrambles and chucks a touchdown pass in Roethlisberger-esque fashion.
On the other hand, they don't want to draft a quarterback only to see Smith develop into a legitimate NFL starter. In that case, they would have missed out on a chance to nab a much-needed skill player with a high pick, such as Texas A&M's big wide receiver Mike Evans.
What type of player the Jets pursue in the draft could very well come down to Smith's performance in the upcoming weeks.
It's frustrating watching Geno Smith and the Jets offense right now. In an era when the passing game dominates the NFL, Jets fans have been subjected to abhorrent play by their quarterbacks. Mixing up the depth chart at the end of a lost season will only add to the problems, though.
Jets Nation has endured years of uninspiring performances on offense. What's four more games if it could help determine a brighter future?