The New York Jets deserve credit for taking a different approach this time around.
We can all confidently say that the five-year period of Mark Sanchez in New York didn’t end up going how it was originally planned. There were plenty of things that went wrong in the process but the organization is trying to reconcile one thing in particular with Geno Smith.
One of the more popular complaints from Jet fans during Sanchez’s tenure was how the organization went about trying to develop the USC product. The Jets opted to never bring in real competition for Sanchez’s job, perhaps causing a lack of motivation and some complacency. Kellen Clemens and Mark Brunell were never serious threats to compete for the position while Sanchez was handed the job with no fire being lit under him to create urgency that was clearly needed.
The Vick signing showed us that New York isn’t going to coddle Geno Smith the way they did Sanchez. The organization shielded him from the scrutiny and Rex Ryan force-fed us one delusional press conference after another. But no more! (hopefully). Ryan has already criticized his quarterback publicly as we recall 2013 training camp when he called Geno out after an underwhelming practice.
More tough love came this offseason when Ryan, general manager John Idzik and even owner Woody Johnson failed to give Smith a convincing vote of confidence. Now, Vick is here and surely isn’t making $5 million to accept a backup role without a fight. This is a guy who is out to prove to his many detractors he still has something left in the tank.
He’s here to compete for the position and push Geno Smith in a way that Mark Sanchez never was. The Jets are making sure Smith is going to earn his job as the 2014 starter or he’ll have to watch the veteran from the bench, waiting his turn after getting a season-long taste in 2013.
Maybe the Jets have been a bit too extreme in the switch of directions since they did bring in a guy that if healthy could take the job from Smith in camp. With that said, maybe that wouldn’t be the worst thing and it’s worth noting they aren’t making the same mistake twice. It’s a conscious effort to learn from their rocky past.
The fact that the Jets were willing to shell out a pretty penny to Vick also shows us how much the system familiarity meant to them. Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg has a comfort level with Vick and must feel that he can be an asset not just on the field but in the meeting room with Smith. That is not to say Vick is here only to be a multi-million dollar mentor but he can assist in the development of the young quarterback and we should assume he will.
Vick can also help with locker room chemistry and leadership as he did in Philadelphia, something that has been a problem recently with the Jets. There is a culture shift in progress and a talent shift as well and both are helping the Jets improve. Now gang green just needs to hope this QB scenario doesn’t somehow blow up in their face.