The Jets won tonight's MetLife Bowl at MetLife Stadium tonight. I was fortunate enough to have a ticket so I drove on the Road to MetLife Stadium to catch the overtime classic. The quarterback competition was as in focus as ever. Here are the big headlines.
Geno Smith doesn't win the job.
Geno Smith had a chance to stake a claim to the starting quarterback job tonight. He failed to do so. He finished the night with 3 interceptions and took an awful safety in the second half.
It's tough to pin the first interception on Geno. He underthrew Ryan Spadola a little bit, which gave Prince Amukamara a chance. Still, Spadola had the ball in his hands and let Amukamara outfight him. That is a ball any NFL receiver needs to put away.
The second one was certainly on Geno. He panicked and airmailed a throw.
The third one seemed like a rookie learning experience. It appeared the Giants dropped Justin Tuck on a zone blitz. Tuck picked a pass off because Geno wasn't expecting him to drop. Smith probably never saw anything like that at West Virginia. Moments like that are part of the growing process.
The safety looked like a lack of composure and awareness.
Geno was late a couple of times when he looked down the field. He got bailed out on one of those by a pass interference flag. He also missed a few open downfield targets.
There were some good things, though. He had a quick trigger on short timing routes, screens, and roll outs. He got the ball to his receivers quick enough when they had room to make something happen. Mark Sanchez has a tendency to hold onto the ball until the receiver is covered and then throw on plays like that. Geno also made a number of beautiful throws into tight windows. He gave his receivers a chance and the defenders no play with these passes.
His receivers also hurt him tonight. There were a number of drops, terrible routes, and guys not making a play on balls that were there to be caught. I counted no less than five plays that probably should have been made that would have made his night look a bit better. The problem is the Jets are probably going to have to deal with a subpar set of receivers this year.
Mark Sanchez continues to be Mark Sanchez.
Mark Sanchez again reminded us why despite his rawness, Geno Smith actually had a chance to win the job with a strong performance tonight. Sanchez didn't play very long, but he fumbled away a perfect shotgun snap, made yet another high risk, low reward throw to a covered back, and got himself hurt by holding onto the ball for too long (more on this later).
John Idzik deserves to take some heat.
I don't want to get on Idzik too hard because this was probably not going to be a good football team regardless, and a stopgap quarterback probably wouldn't have changed that. It is kind of tough to not question his plan at the position, though, after David Garrard went down. The Jets made no move for a semi-credible free agent even though they existed.
It was always a possibility that Geno Smith would not be ready for Week 1. Why did he not make a move for a new cheap stopgap after Garrard went down? It was crazy to think of Sanchez as a credible option. You know all of the bad things Geno did tonight? We've seen them all and worse from Sanchez. The difference is Sanchez is in his fifth year, not a rookie. Smith's game tonight wouldn't even come close to being the worst game Sanchez has played.
Geno was not very good tonight, but he still might yet give the Jets a better chance to win than Mark because we've seen Mark consistently be at least that bad.
The question now comes down to whether struggling as a rookie will hurt or help Geno. Will he develop bad habits and lose confidence, or will it make him better by getting him acclimated to the pro game and letting him learn? There have been plenty of examples of both in the NFL. The problem here is the Jets are between a rock and a hard place. The rookie might not be ready, but the alternative is worse.
Rex Ryan did not get Mark Sanchez hurt.
When Mark Sanchez got hurt, there was a lot of howling from the media about why Sanchez was in the game. Manish Mehta even called for Ryan to be fired. That's kind of tough to figure. Anybody could get hurt playing in the preseason. You can get on any coach ever under that logic.
There was also the idea that Sanchez playing behind the second team offensive line was what got him hurt. Let me say this. I really don't know many of the media who cover this team personally. I'm sure many are nice people. I just wonder at times whether they actually watch the things they purport to have an opinion on or whether somebody just throws out a random idea that will generate controversy, and everybody jumps aboard without thinking.
The play happened in front of me. Mark Sanchez had all day to get rid of the ball. He didn't. He needlessly exposed himself to a big hit. That's not about the offensive line. It's a habit and one of the things that makes Sanchez a bad quarterback. It's honestly a miracle this wasn't the first time he's been hurt doing something like this.
You have to love the consistency of the reporting, though. These people were saying the exact same thing two weeks ago when Geno Smith got hurt playing with the second team offensive line. Oh wait, no they weren't. I guess nobody thought up an attention-grabbing headline that would allow everybody to follow it like sheep.
The most ridiculous part of this, though, is the idea that the season would be sunk because Mark Sanchez won't be the starting quarterback.
The Legend of Matt Simms
After a clutch 24 yard touchdown strike late in the fourth quarter, Matt Simms took over on his own 4 yards line in overtime needing to get his team into field goal range to win it. The Snoopy Trophy was on the line. He was facing the team his father led to a championship. Simms connected on three passes for 82 yards to get up Billy Cundiff's game winning field goal to give the Jets' a dramatic preseason victory over their crosstown rivals.
John Elway's drive in Cleveland in the AFC Championship Game this was not, but it was still a nice moment for Simms. Simms is frankly unlikely to have much of an NFL career. He might not ever be on a regular season roster. Tonight, though, he was a hero and quarterbacked a team to a win in an NFL game even if it was the preseason. He will always have this memory, and nobody will ever be able to take that away from him. That's more than most kids who play the game ever get, and that's pretty cool.
Simms also might have convinced the Jets to keep him as a third quarterback if Mark Sanchez needs to miss time.