On Wednesday, Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News dropped this bombshell which questions whether the Jets supposed fair quarterback competition is actually that. I can’t believe it hasn’t gotten more media traction. Mehta is a good reporter. He usually has his finger pretty well on the pulse of what is going on in Florham Park. So although what he is saying flies in the face of the received wisdom of the media, I believe him.
What is the received wisdom of the media? That Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith are basically neck and neck in said quarterback competition. Sanchez has the advantage of experience and more familiarity with a West Coast offense, but still turns the ball over; Smith had a strong college career, has a better arm and has all the mythmaking/wishful thinking that he will be the Next Great Rookie QB. The general pundit class opinion is “Start Sanchez. If he plays well, great. If not, at some point you can hand the reins to Smith and see what he can do. You will find out if you have your QB of the Future or need to draft one in 2014.”
But apparently, new GM John Idzik seems to think he already has his QB of the Future in Geno Smith. You can see why he is so enamored of that idea. He just left Seattle where that exact scenario played out with Russell Wilson emerging as a legitimate star. So Idzik, I guess believing the Seattle Midas touch with personnel travels, drafts Smith. However, historically, Idzik is not a personnel guy. He’s a cap guy. For the Jets, he has done a solid job trying to dig them out of the cap hell he inherited.
Picking talent? I am not so sure. I think it’s safe to say that Rex Ryan had final word on defensive draft picks this past April. Drafting Smith, in my opinion, is on Idzik.
To my eye, Idzik already showed sketchy player evaluation judgment. He whiffed big on David Garrard. The thinking appeared to be Garrard would play the part of established veteran to help calm the waters, provide competition and help develop any rookie that might get drafted: a sort of bridge to the future. I have always liked Garrard, but anyone who watched Hard Knocks last year knew that his knees were constructed of tissue paper. Of course he looked good in workouts for the Jets. But do you mean to tell me Idzik thought Garrard was going to be able to sustain NFL hits behind the Jets rebuilding offensive line?
Garrard couldn’t even make it out of the spring. That gives me no confidence in Idzik’s personnel decision making.
Anyway, back to Mehta’s reporting. If what he is saying is true, certain things start to make a lot more sense.
Let’s spitball this a little. The rap on Ryan as a head coach lately has been that he has little or no interest in the offense. I thought that if he wanted to remain as a head coach or be hired elsewhere as a head coach, he shouldn’t be quite so hands on with regard to the Jets’ defense. But maybe Ryan saw the writing on the wall a lot sooner than anybody else and figured he won’t survive past this year in New York. Why not spruce up his resume and field something dominant out of what Idzik has dismantled? Not a bad strategy to get hired with a new team come next spring. Let new Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg deal with the anemic offense—maybe that’s why we see shades of the old Rex recently saying things like the Jets will be a top five defense this year. Just a thought.
The most interesting point to me made by Mehta is here:
The “fair and open” competition has been a charade from Day One, complete with organizational shenanigans (including changing the rules along the way) designed to help Smith.
You publish something like that and you are pretty much throwing down the gauntlet. Mehta is under no obligation to reveal his sources to the readers. If his editor is satisfied with his reporting, he is good to go.
But, Charade? Organizational shenanigans? Changing the rules? Yikes!
I would love to know where that is coming from. Speculatively, there are no shortage of leak suspects. Former scouts? Assistant coaches? Former players? Injured players? The dude who does the laundry and everyone thinks isn’t listening? It’s a big organization and anybody could have any type of motive to dish dirt. We just don’t know. But I can’t imagine putting something like that in print unless you have sourcing to back it up.
All I know is this: Mehta’s article makes me think this is the calm before the metaphorical storm. Everyone has played nice all spring and summer, but starting September 8, the games count. Money and careers are on the line.
Best case scenario? Smith lights it up and the Jets have found their franchise leader for the next 5-10 years, there is a media lovefest in New York and everyone is happy.
But I have a very uneasy feeling that this is going to come apart at the seams. If the Jets start Smith Week 1 and they stumble out of the gate, all bets are off. The locker room will divide (again) just like the Jets and the Sharks. If that happens, I don’t think there is enough organizational cohesion to keep it together. The knives will be out; the stir-it-up New York media, who are not in business to help the team but rather to get clicks and sell papers, will be relentless. I don’t think Idzik or Smith are ready for just what that would be like.
New York ain’t Seattle and it sure ain’t Morgantown.
I had so hoped for this franchise to have a positive year after all the turmoil of the last two.
But if the Jets start Smith Week 1, and unless he gets reinjured or is cover-your-eyes awful in the next two weeks, it looks like they want that. I predict a bumpy ride. Take a look at the schedule. By the time the Patriots get around to shellacking the Jets for the second time in Week 7, the Jets might not have more than one or two wins. I wish Smith luck.
As far as Sanchez, I said this in my 2012 season wrap up, but it bears repeating: He needs to get out of New York. Team Sanchez needs to lay that groundwork now. His people need to let it be known that he will not fight a midseason trade. There are still plenty of clubs out there who, if their starting quarterback goes down, are looking very thin at backup quarterback. Especially if the starter is injured on a team that has real playoff potential.
I don’t know the cap ramifications of a mid-season trade, but I’m almost positive Sanchez will not be back with the Jets next year and maybe that will be a good thing for him. Maybe he can resurrect his career with a change of scenery and a fresh start.
In the meantime, what we all thought would be a drama free, low key year of rebuilding is shaping up to be anything but that.