The quarterback position is the most important on the field, and the New York Jets continue to struggle to find talent there. They drafted Geno Smith in the second round last year, then watched as he had an extremely turnover prone rookie season that had more downs than ups. The Jets felt they needed to do something to improve the position, so they signed free agent quarterback Michael Vick to a 1-year, $5 million contract. Those two players will be in an open competition in training camp, with Matt Simms left as the likely third stringer.
The Jets are saying that Vick will mentor Smith and that the incumbent is the favorite to earn the starting job, but you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who believes that. The Jets have an organizational difference of opinion between general manager John Idzik, who wants to build for the future, and owner Woody Johnson and head coach Rex Ryan, who want to win now. Personally, I agree with Idzik’s point of view and believe that the Jets must start Smith this season in an attempt to develop him, especially considering they’ve upgraded their receiving corps. However, if the Jets choose to go into win now mode, they will start Vick.
One thing we know for sure about the Jets’ QBs is that they are going to turn the ball over and take sacks in large quantities. Smith threw 21 interceptions, fumbled seven times and took 43 sacks as a rookie, averaging 1.75 turnovers and 2.69 sacks per game. Vick has thrown 27 interceptions, fumbled 25 times and been sacked 51 times in just 30 games over the past three seasons, averaging 1.73 turnovers and 1.70 sacks per game. Smith also failed to complete 60% of his passes this season, a mark Vick has hit only once in his career.
As far as positives go, one thing both players bring to the table is scrambling ability, and Smith tied for first in the NFL among quarterbacks with six rushing touchdowns this season. Vick turns 34 in June and is not quite as explosive as he once was, but he has still averaged 7.05 YPC over the last three years. However, unless one improves as a passer, it is hard to see the Jets making the playoffs this season.
Finally there is Simms, who is wildly overrated by Jets fans who were frustrated with Smith this season. Simms has a strong arm and a little potential, but the truth is that he completed just 16 of 31 passes this season for 156 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT, never looking like a legitimate starting option. Simms is a career backup, not the answer to the Jets’ problems at quarterback.
Quarterback remains one of the weakest positions on the Jets’ roster despite the signing of Vick, who is clearly in decline. However, with the 18th overall pick and a plethora of other needs, it is unlikely that the Jets will be able to land one of the top quarterbacks in the draft. If by some chance Johnny Manziel falls to them, I expect the Jets would take him. However, I don’t believe they will trade up for a QB or trade for a backup like Kirk Cousins, and investing a second or third round pick in a QB the year after taking Smith would be pointless.
With 12 picks in the draft, it is likely that the Jets will land a quarterback at some point, likely targeting a developmental player to challenge Simms for the third string role. Given the positional value and the wealth of picks the Jets possess there is no reason not to draft a QB at some point, but they have too many other pressing needs to do it any earlier than the 5th round.
What this means is what you see is what you get for the Jets at quarterback, and it isn’t pretty. This team has a playoff caliber defense and a decent offensive unit that will be improved by the draft. However, they are still without the signal caller needed to put all the pieces together and make the postseason. That is not going to change this offseason, so fans must hope that either Smith or Vick can establish themselves in camp and emerge as a quality starter. If that doesn’t happen, this will be yet another Jets’ team and season derailed by poor quarterback play.