Rex Ryan, the head coach of the New York Jets, has the hardest decision to make in the NFL this season. Start Mark Sanchez, a starter for four years in the league, or give the reigns to a rookie quarterback who was drafted in the second round in the 2013 NFL Draft in Geno Smith, who hasn’t seen more than one quarter of play this preseason. The question for Ryan is hard to answer, but the answer is a really easy one to make.
Sanchez has a career 55.1 completion percentage, one more interception (69) than touchdowns (68) and took a huge step back last season in terms of overall efficiency as his passer rating fell from 78.2 in 2011 to 66.9. Sanchez also finished in the bottom third in the NFL in QBR the past two seasons, an overall indicator of true play-making out on the field.
Smith hasn’t played at all, you say? Sanchez has earned the right, I’ve heard. Some have even stated that this is Sanchez’ best camp ever. Let me remind you what Sanchez does on a consistent basis and what he did Week 1, play one, for the Jets to start the preseason against the Detroit Lions.
It was a simple screen play, except the running back never got out into the pattern because of traffic. Sanchez tried to buy time, taking a few ill-advised steps backward and getting off balance. Then instead of regrouping, finding his footing and throwing the ball out of bounds, he decided to lob it up into the giant mitts of Ezekiel Ansah, Detroit’s No. 5 overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. Do I need to remind you of the “butt fumble” last year, as well?
No, the choice is easy for Ryan, but does he have the guts to make it? A player should earn the right to be on the field, so Smith shouldn’t start. But the same goes for Sanchez, who has earned the right to sit on the bench after his horrific play the last two seasons. You know what you are getting with Sanchez, he’s going to look great on one or two possessions, but also make one or two terrible plays as well.
Smith hasn’t shown enough to be the starter Week 1 of the season. But if he shows anything, anything at all, Ryan will do the smart thing and announce him as the starter over Sanchez. Smith has already done enough in my books, going 6-for-7 for 42 yards before twisting his ankle in Week 1. But is that enough for Ryan to pull the trigger? Probably not.
A curious note to go along with this is that as most teams are announcing their starting quarterbacks this week: the Cleveland Browns named Brandon Weeden, Philadelphia Eagles named Michael Vick and Jacksonville Jaguars named Blaine Gabbert. Is it so surprising that the Jets haven’t released any news about their starter yet? Not really. After all, if it wasn’t for Sanchez’ contract, he probably wouldn’t be on the team to begin with.