It comes as no surprise that the New York Jets have been struggling to find their groove on offense for some time. The hiring of head coach Rex Ryan started an orchestration of questionable draft, free agency and trade moves, all in the name of creating the “special sauce” the Jets need to get to the Super Bowl. In 2009 and 2010, it seemed like the Jets finally got some pep in their step as quarterback Mark Sanchez, head coach Ryan and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer (all rookies in their positions) delivered a solid on-field product. The Jets were consistently winning at least one of their two season games against their AFC East archrival New England Patriots, and that’s enough to make the season a success to a Jets fan. Going to the Conference championships two years in a row was a cherry on top. But the good times didn’t last, and 69 Sanchez interceptions, 122 offensive turnovers and one infamous butt fumble later, by 2013 it was time to change the recipe by finding a new QB.
Drafting Geno Smith in 2013 was a new ray of hope. Here comes a guy who played all four years at West Virginia and has the highest QB career pass efficiency rating in the college’s history. Perfect! But Smith hasn’t shown that he’s much better than “The Sanchize,” who sat the entire 2013 season out with a torn shoulder muscle. Compared to Sanchez’s 2012 stats, which was definitely his worst year in the league, Smith’s completed pass percentage in 2013 was only 1.5 percent better. Smith even had three more interceptions than Sanchez in his first year. After a less than stellar rookie season, the Jets are already losing faith in Smith.
A quarterback swap between the Jets and the Philadelphia Eagles during this offseason freed the Jets of Sanchez and gifted the team with veteran QB Michael Vick. Many reporters and fans are speculating that Vick will start the 2014 season over Smith because of his experience and past success. But the Jets have flubbed up opportunities like this before. Remember back to 2008 when Brett Favre was the quarterback? That didn’t work out so well. Will the same happen with Vick? Is there something about the NY Jets uniform that is gang green Kryptonite to star quarterbacks, making them lose their mojo, and to rookie quarterbacks, rendering them useless after just one or two seasons?
No. I refuse to believe that the Jets will forever be cursed with that fate. There are three main things the Jets can do to stop this QB carousel and start building an offensive dynasty:
1. Give the QB receivers that he can develop with. It’s extremely important for a QB to feel comfortable with the offensive tools a coach gives him. Sanchez had three different main receivers during his three years as a starting QB, so he was never able to develop a connection with them. Six weeks of training camp and a few days of practices in between games during the season isn’t enough time for that to happen. The silent understanding between a QB and his receiver takes years to build and no Jets QB has had that luxury in a while.
2. Don’t go after the biggest fish in the pond. It’s difficult to unanimously say that the Jets made a bad move by picking up Vick. Some steals just come along and it’s hard to pass them up. But staying committed to their starting QB would give Smith a good confidence boost and preserve the team’s salary cap room.
3. Don’t create a media circus. Too much attention can be detrimental to young QBs. Tim Tebow vs. Sanchez, anyone? The Jets need to stay focused on creating a Super Bowl-caliber team instead of creating New York Post headlines. They’ve done a decent job of that since 2012.
Will the Jets plan their future around Smith or Vick? I’m not sure. Personally, I predict that Vick will start the season, either run out of steam or get sidelined with a minor injury, and then be replaced by Smith for the remainder of the season. It seems improbable that the Jets would spend $5 million on Vick and not use him immediately. Smith is young, has a lot of potential, and knows how to move in and outside of the pocket. If the Jets follow those guidelines, I think they’ve got their man for the next five years at least.