Bill Kostroun/Associated Press
With the way quarterbacks were the talk of the 2014 draft, you'd think we'd have plenty of quarterback controversies. Instead, the New York Jets are the only contending team going into the year with a wide-open competition at quarterback.
Geno Smith is the incumbent, a second-round pick coming into his sophomore year. Though many analysts (including yours truly) thought highly of his decision-making coming out of college, Smith's rookie season could be charitably termed a disappointment. As the unquestioned starter from Week 1, Smith completed 55.8 percent of his 443 attempts, for 12 touchdowns, 21 interceptions and an average of 6.9 yards per attempt.
There were a few glimpses of hope—like when he shredded the Falcons in the Georgia Dome, going 16-of-20 for 199 yards, three touchdowns and no picks. There were also five games where he threw for no touchdowns and multiple interceptions.
Mike Vick is, well, Mike Vick. At different points in his career, he has been hailed as a game-changing talent, reviled as a selfish thug, done hard time in Leavenworth and become the NFL's greatest reclamation project.
For most of his 11-season career, though, Vick's been mediocre, a conflicting mess of peaks and valleys that averages out to an 80.9 career passer efficiency rating. Between his running ability putting him in harm's way and having to re-earn starting gigs, Vick's only started all 16 games in a season once.
In 2013, Vick proved he could still make plays with the Philadelphia Eagles—but when another injury handed the reins to backup Nick Foles, Foles blew past Vick (and the rest of the NFL).
Who will prevail in the Jets' two-horse quarterback race? Of course, the Jets would prefer Smith to make good on his potential, and head coach Rex Ryan has been publicly puffing him up.
"This young man is going to be hard to beat out," Ryan told WFAN-AM, quoted here via NFL.com's Dan Hanzus. "Even as talented a player as Mike Vick is, I think Geno Smith has made that big a stride." Ryan pointed out that Smith "knows the offense forward and backward," which is nice. Vick, though, had the greatest season of his career in 2010, under current Jets offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg.
One of these two quarterbacks has gone to the Pro Bowl while executing Mornhinweg's offense, and it sure isn't Smith.
CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora opined as much on May 14. "I don't believe Geno Smith will hold off Mike Vick long," La Canfora wrote. "Vick has executed the system at a high level and he is refreshed. The guys in that locker room will gravitate to him, young players flock to him because he's been through the wars and there ain't no way Rex Ryan won't view Vick as his best option sooner rather than later."
Given that Ryan's job was saved only by the narrowest of margins in 2013, he will have to do everything he can to win every game. Smith may be the long-term answer, and the Jets shouldn't give up on him no matter what happens in 2014, but Ryan will hook him for Vick at the first sign of trouble.
Projected Week 1 Starter: Vick
Projected Week 17 Starer: Vick