No league changes as much on a week-to-week basis as the NFL. In a matter of hours, a player can go from being a franchise savior to the goat of the town. Geno Smith’s career in New York started out much more smoothly than anyone could have expected. Headed into the bye week, the Jets were 5-4 and Smith already had two signature wins to his name.
Fast-forward a month, and Geno Smith found his starting job hanging by a thread after a three-game stretch that was as bad as anyone could have fathomed.
Geno Smith may have brought himself back to life last week following a convincing win over the Oakland Raiders, but the Jets have no reason to expect their second-round pick to evolve into their franchise quarterback, regardless of how the final three games play out.
The Jets have (smartly) given Geno Smith every opportunity to showcase his skills this season. He's started in all 13 games so far. Even without a full 16-game slate of data to make a decision on Smith, it is safe to say that at this point, the Jets’ franchise quarterback is as likely to be on the roster as he is to be playing elsewhere.
Is it fair to give a second-day draft pick one season to prove that he can be a consistent, effective player who can be relied on for years to come? Of course not. However, the Jets cannot afford to put the advancement of their franchise on hold because they are waiting on one player to catch up to the rest of the roster.
Unless the Jets are 100 percent sold on Geno Smith—based on the results of the first 13 games, they have no reason to be—they must be active in the muddy, dangerous realm that is the NFL quarterback market in 2013.
Smith may very well be the future of the Jets, but the Jets must force him to prove it against tougher competition than Mark Sanchez next offseason.
Avoiding “Quarterback Purgatory”
There is only one thing worse than having a bad quarterback on your roster, and it is having a quarterback who is walking the tightrope of greatness and disaster without making it clear just how good (or bad) he really is.
Enticed by their flashes of greatness, NFL teams find themselves in a realm of “quarterback purgatory” in which they are waiting on their average player to develop into the caliber of player they just may not be capable of becoming.
Teams and organizations want to believe they have their answer at quarterback. It’s really a burning desire to believe that the quarterback problem is solved. The hope that a quarterback can be “the guy” can leave teams so disillusioned by the positives that they refuse to acknowledge the fact that their quarterback just isn’t good enough to win the big one. This is why playoff appearances can actually be detrimental to the future success of the franchise. The team is even further disillusioned and therefore further entrenched in QB purgatory.
If the Jets make the playoffs, which is unlikely at this point, is Smith somehow a better quarterback than he was a week ago? Not really.
This is not to say that Smith cannot improve, but the Jets will likely be setting their franchise back several years if they convince themselves that he will become an elite quarterback anytime soon.
As impressive as the "good" Geno has been...
...the "bad" Geno raises alarming flags about his ability to play well consistently.
After all, the Jets can learn from the mistakes they made with Mark Sanchez. Geno Smith's rookie season has not been unlike Mark Sanchez's—a wave of inconsistencies with sparkles of greatness sprinkled in to tease decision-makers.
Influenced by how much they invested in Sanchez, the Jets convinced themselves that Mark Sanchez was a star in the making, despite plenty of evidence to suggest the contrary. They ignored his faults and focused on meaningless stats such as playoff wins.
The Jets paid a dear price for their misguided loyalty. Despite how close they came to the Super Bowl, Mike Tannenbaum was fired just four years after drafting Sanchez, leaving a desolate roster in his wake.
If the Jets are not careful, they could wind up setting their franchise back even further if they put all of their eggs in the Geno Smith basket.
Better Safe Than Sorry
Yes, there is a downside to bringing in competition for Geno Smith next offseason.
While it would be admirable for such high-ranking officials to admit their mistakes, doing so would be a poor reflection on John Idzik's first draft class. Drafting or signing a quarterback who could compete for the starting job would essentially be admitting that the Jets may have wasted their second-round pick on Smith.
Of course, there is also the cost of bringing in another quarterback. Signing a free agent (in a very limited market) will take away cap room that could have been used to improve other areas of the roster. Drafting a player, especially in the early rounds, robs the team of a young prospect who could fill one of their many holes.
Still, despite the added costs of bringing in competition, the Jets will pay a much greater price down the road if they force-feed themselves Geno Smith pills.
The truth is, even if the Jets are able to add young talent to other parts of their roster, all of their improvements will be for naught if Smith does not develop into the player the Jets are hoping he becomes.
Yes, it is true that Smith is working with one of the lesser rosters in the league, especially when it comes to skill-position players. The Jets, however, are looking for a quarterback who can overcome those shortcomings—those are the quarterbacks who are capable of winning Super Bowl titles and keeping a team relevant year after year.
If Geno Smith does end up being a franchise player, then the Jets have an extra quarterback prospect on their roster—which is a nice problem to have.
Drafting or signing a quarterback this offseason may seem like a knee-jerk reaction to Geno Smith's up-and-down rookie season, but it is actually the safest move the Jets can make.
Where Does the Competition Come From?
The Jets seem to already have a nice mix of veterans and young talent at their disposal at the quarterback position. Matt Simms is a intriguing prospect with a lot of arm talent, while the battle-tested David Garrard is more than capable of getting the Jets out of a jam if need be.
The Jets, however, are not looking for a player to get them through a season or push Geno Smith a bit in training camp. They are looking for the future of their franchise, the player who is going to be on the backs of jerseys and the wallpaper of iPhones everywhere.
Right now, that player may be preparing for an upcoming bowl game.
Youth and potential is the direction in which the Jets should go if they are going to solve the quarterback position once and for all.
This does not mean that they should be shy about making moves during the draft, either. Taking a shot on a fifth-round project may save Geno Smith's feelings, but odds are, the Jets are going to have to take their shots as early as the first round if they are serious about solving the pesky quarterback situation.
John Idzik has some time to build a winning roster, but that does not mean he has any to waste. As we have seen over and over, even the most well-rounded roster can be wasted if the right quarterback is not in place.
It may not be the most conventional or popular way to go about building a team, but adding a quarterback who can potentially be the future of the franchise is a necessity this offseason.
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