The New York Jets prevailed over the Patriots on Sunday and it was a satisfying win earning the Jets a 4-3 record, but the way the New York tabloids are fawning over Geno Smith, you’d think he single handedly beat the Patriots.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Following along with the New York media this year, they are desperately trying to shoehorn Smith into the “next great rookie sensation” storyline the NFL saw last year with Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson. But that crop of quarterbacks was a huge aberration.
Smith is a rookie with all the attendant growing pains. Yes, he made some nice plays with his legs, but he threw another pick six — largely because he still telegraphs his throws. My issue with Smith is his command of situational football. For someone who started as long as he did in West Virginia, he should have a better handle on that. The perfect example is his lack of awareness when backed up against his own goal line. He took two (two!) safeties in the Pinstripe Bowl and has had a couple more goal line mishaps with the Jets, to say nothing of his own version of the butt fumble.
No, the reason for Smith’s success isn’t that he is a super rookie like Luck or Wilson — it’s Marty Mornhinweg. I said this all the way back in the summer. Mornhinweg is the key to Smith and the Jets’ offensive success. The Jets new offensive coordinator has to call very smart games to maximize his undermanned offense. We all knew Rex Ryan would take care of the defense.
How does this manifest itself? The Jets beat the Pats primarily because Mornhinweg stayed committed to the run, even in OT. That meant the Jets controlled time of possession. Conventional wisdom is that the way to beat Tom Brady is to fluster him with exotic defensive schemes, but the real way to beat Tom Brady is to keep him on the sideline as much as you can. Chris Ivory, not Geno Smith is the true hero of the offense this time around. Commitment to the run burned clock and allowed the defense to catch their breath.
Meanwhile, Rex Ryan went back to what he does best: Challenging his unit to rise to the occasion. Yes, Ryan’s defense has many moving parts, but when it really shines is when Rex exhorts his men to prove the naysayers wrong and play like men possessed. He did that before in the Monday Night Football game against the Atlanta Falcons, and it appears he must have given some version of the same speech at halftime against the Patriots because the Jets defense came out and played with urgency and effort that stymied the Patriot offense and never let them get into any kind of rhythm.
Then, for the second time this season, the Jets got lucky with a late penalty. In Week 1 against Tampa Bay, Levonte David got called for pushing Smith out of bounds which gave the Jets just enough extra yardage to kick the game winning field goal. So, too, this week. Again, margin of victory was a field goal, this time from a new rule that disallows pushing into the opponent’s line. There is plenty of intrigue about the call. You can read more here and here. Bottom line was that it gave the Jets just enough extra yardage so Nick Folk could hit the game winning 3.
When that penalty was called, it immediately brought to mind the “Bush Push” play from the 2005 USC-Notre Dame tilt back in the Matt Leinart/Pete Carroll days. That call too was controversial. The Trojans ended up winning because of Reggie Bush’s push to get Leinart over the goal line.
Which got me to thinking about injured Jets QB Mark Sanchez.
Team Sanchez has got to be frustrated right now. If the unbelievably stupid move of putting him in late in the Jets preseason game against the Giants wasn’t obvious enough then, because it led to his throwing shoulder being injured, it’s infinitely worse for the Jets now. Think about it. Let’s assume that Sanchez hadn’t been injured and the Jets declared Smith the “winner” of the QB competition (not a stretch because it is crystal clear he is GM John Idzik’s man), Sanchez would be standing on the sideline holding a clipboard, and most importantly: not injured.
Were that the case, nothing you can say can convince me that the front offices in Chicago or St. Louis wouldn’t be burning up Idzik’s phone line right now. The Bears are serious contenders, but no Jay Cutler is a huge blow — Sanchez would be an upgrade over Josh McCown. In St. Louis, Sam Bradford is out for the year. Sanchez could have slid right in and started. Brian Schottenheimer used to be his Offensive Coordinator; Sanchez knows Schotty’s offensive style and he’s already proven that he is a better option than Kellen Clemens. Depending on the other teams’ cap situation, they could have taken some or all of Sanchez’s salary off the Jets books and probably thrown in a draft pick.
Looking at this strictly from a business point of view, no matter what you think of Sanchez, he is an asset. The blame for the Jets mismanagement of Sanchez is completely on their front office. Both this year and last year’s regimes are equally culpable but for different reasons.
So now the Jets lost an opportunity to trade him for financial relief, and possibly a draft pick or two, which is the biggest premium of all for a rebuilding team. If they think that they will get either of those two forms of compensation in the off season, they are deluded. No one is going to offer any money or picks for Sanchez. Not because he doesn’t have value, but because in this poker game of NFL GMs, Idzik has already shown his hand. He has no interest in keeping Sanchez around as a mentor to Smith, as evidenced by the fact that they have agreed to re-sign David Garrard as a back up (that is flat out laughable). If Smith needs another babysitter that badly (and he has acknowledged that Sanchez has been very supportive and QB Coach David Lee is very good), I’m not sure what that says except that Idzik has zero interest in anything Sanchez can bring to the table, even in terms of day to day NFL experience and familiarity with opponents, especially in the division.
How that translates is Idzik will be making a bunch of phone calls in the offseason trying to move Sanchez and get whatever he can in return. Other GMs will likely listen politely, decline to make a deal and then hang up the phone, laugh and immediately call Sanchez’s agent to call dibs. The second the Jets release Sanchez, David Dunn’s phone is going to light up like a Christmas tree.
I’ve said it since the end of last season: Sanchez needs to get out of New York. Assuming his complete return to health — and there is no reason to believe he won’t have a full recovery — he will be drawing an NFL paycheck next year. It just won’t be in New York.