Former New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath is one of the most recognizable faces in New York sports history, but his recent comments about Michael Vick, Geno Smith and his team’s starting-quarterback role prove he still has his finger on the pulse of the city.
Namath spoke about the Jets’ starting-QB job at the United Way's annual Gridiron Gala in Manhattan on Tuesday night, via Rich Cimini of ESPN.com:
Of course, the coaches are going to decide who's out there, but, boy, I don't know any football fan that's been around for nine or 10 years that doesn't think Michael will be outstanding and probably is the best player at this time.
If Mike's healthy, I think he's the better player at this point. Now, Geno's got some talent, no doubt, but we've obviously seen Michael and what he can do. To have some knowledge of [Marty Mornhinweg's] offense, I think that's an advantage, too, for Michael to make the transition. It's a matter of how sound he is.
While Namath has said and done some crazy things over the years, his analysis of the quarterback battle between Vick and Smith is right on the money.
According to Cimini, Vick was signed as a backup this offseason to push Smith and make him a better player. While that could be the case, the better option would be to start Vick and let Smith learn as the backup.
Head coach Rex Ryan also reiterated that point to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News:
With Vick possessing the same style and tangible abilities as Smith, the two men could form a bond that would help the organization now and in the future. Many fans would look at this as a step back for Smith, but he didn’t have the proper time to learn from his mistakes last season.
Smith was never going to learn the NFL under the tutelage of Mark Sanchez, but with all of the on- and off-field lessons Vick has learned, he could be the perfect mentor for a young player like Smith.
As Kimberley A. Martin of New York Newsday points out, if anyone knows quarterbacks in New York, it would be the only man to ever lead the franchise to a Super Bowl victory:
If there's anyone who knows quarterbacks it's Namath, the only Jets signal-caller to lead the franchise to a Super Bowl win. Though he was a staunch supporter of Mark Sanchez, who was released the same day the organization signed Vick, Namath sees potential in Smith. A rookie last season, Smith led the Jets to an 8-8 record, including wins in three of the final four games.
There is no doubt that the rookie struggled at times in his first season, amassing a 55.8 completion percentage, 21 interceptions, four fumbles and a quarterback rating of just 35.9, but he also showed raw talent.
After racking up 3,046 yards through the air and another 366 yards on the ground for 18 combined touchdowns, it is clear that he has the potential to be a long-term franchise quarterback.
Instead of forcing him to be the franchise QB now, though, New York can have him continue to learn Marty Mornhinweg’s system under Vick's wing. Vick was the former Philadelphia Eagles starter with Mornhinweg as his offensive coordinator, and the two already have a bond.
Not only would Vick be the more feasible option on the field, but he would also be the person who helps connect Smith with Mornhinweg and helps the two men get the most out of each other’s talents.
Add in Vick’s inability to stay off the injury report in Philadelphia, and Smith will likely have another chance to start again soon enough.
In the meantime, learning on the job is never a bad experience for a young quarterback.
*Stats via NFL.com.