In 2009, the New York Jets were led by the best rushing attack in the league. With the best offensive line money could buy, Thomas Jones, Leon Washington, and Shonn Greene, rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez was simply asked to not get in the way. Sanchez was usually given two plays over his headset by offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, and would relay both plays to the team in the huddle. When he got to the line of scrimmage, center Nick Mangold would call the protections and identify likely blitzers, indicating to the rest of the offensive line who they should each block. Sanchez would then survey the defense, and if he didn’t like the first play called, he could yell "KILL KILL," and the offense would switch to the backup play.
Under Geno Smith, the offense isn’t so simple. Like Colonel Jessup, he has a responsibility greater than you can possible fathom. The team no longer has a reliable offensive line, and it’s hard to predict if Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell will show up to work. In addition, Smith is asked to call the protections at the line with the guidance of Mangold, who reportedly has full veto capacity, and has seemingly full access to the entire slate of audibles. Instead of just one backup play and a color-coded system reminding him to not make a mistake, Smith has a significant number of factors to consider that Sanchez was never asked to confront. Smith calls the protections and he calls the audibles (in fact, he called the game-sealing third down conversion against the Atlanta Falcons, and called three in a row against the Baltimore Ravens), requiring a large amount of pre-snap reading of the defense. This isn’t all that surprising considering Smith called 80% of his plays at West Virginia University at the line of scrimmage, but it’s asking a lot of a rookie quarterback already struggling behind a porous line and a weak receiving corps.
It’s encouraging that offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg believes Smith is capable of handling all this, but it would probably be a good idea to simplify things for Smith so he doesn’t continue to be overwhelmed. Smith is known as a film-junkie, but it will take more than half a year starting to do what he is being asked to do, which is the same that is required of Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Aaron Rodgers.