The biggest story for the New York Jets over the last 8 months has been their quarterback situation. They were involved in a full blown quarterback controversy following their decision to draft Geno Smith, then dealt with the drama surrounding Mark Sanchez and his injury. Once the season began, Smith was benched three times for Matt Simms, causing another quarterback controversy. However, Smith settled down towards the end of the season, and the Jets feel better about his future. Still, there are decisions that have to be made at quarterback this offseason.
The four quarterbacks on either the active roster or injured reserve at the end of the season were Smith, Sanchez, Simms and David Garrard. Let’s begin with Smith, whom the Jets will obviously keep. Smith’s final numbers for his rookie season were a 55.8% completion percentage, 3,046 yards, 12 TDs and 21 INTs. He also had 72 carries for 366 yards and 6 TDs. There were a ton of ups and downs for Smith, and he was clearly not prepared for the NFL early in the season. However, he closed the season strong over the last four games, and that has given the Jets the confidence to head into next season with Smith as the starting quarterback.
The man he replaced, Sanchez, is widely assumed to be released in the near future. Sanchez will be a $13.1 million cap hit if he is on the roster next season, but just a $4.8 million charge if he is released. Given that the Jets are committed to Smith and that Sanchez would be an extremely expensive backup, the writing is on wall. Sanchez will certainly catch on elsewhere, but he does not have a future with the Jets. It is a disappointing ending to the Jets’ career of the quarterback who was once viewed as a franchise savior, but it is best for both parties that they go their separate ways.
Simms took over the backup role late in the preseason, and he rapidly became a fan favorite, if only because there were times when anything was better than Smith. In reality, Simms was not particularly effective in his three relief appearances, completing 51.6% of his passes for 156 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT. Simms is an exclusive rights free agent, which means it costs the Jets almost nothing to bring him back, which they will do. However, Simms profiles much more like a third string QB next season than legitimate competition for Smith.
Finally, it is highly unlikely that Garrard will be back with the Jets. His presence as a mentor for Smith was very valuable this season, but Garrard has nothing left as a player. There is almost no chance the Jets will offer him a contract, and he will likely retire. The Jets should be looking to improve their backup situation by adding a quarterback who can both mentor and compete with Smith. Garrard is not that player, so the Jets need to move on.
There will be fans who want to see a splashy move at quarterback this offseason, but that simply isn’t going to happen. The Jets are going to move forward with Smith as their quarterback, and they have to hope they have the right man for the job this time around.