Geno Smith was hurt by his offensive line as a rookie. The group was inconsistent in pass protection. When Geno had time, he looked like a competent quarterback. It is no accident he played relatively well the last two weeks of the season when his protection was at its best. According to Pro Football Focus, Geno completed 64% of his passes when he faced no pressure. That sounds good, right? So clearly the solution is to just fix the protection, and the Jets are set. It isn't that simple.
While the list of franchise quarterbacks in the NFL is small, the list of quarterbacks who look credible when given time is a long one. Matt Schaub was a 71% passer when he wasn't pressured in 2013. Let me repeat that. Matt Schaub was a 71% passer when he wasn't pressured in 2013. Brandon Weeden was at 64%. Matt McGloin was a shade under 63%. Christian Ponder was just under 68%. We can go back to 2012. Brady Quinn was at 67%. Matt Cassel was at 63%. Ryan Fitzpatrick was at 64%.
This isn't to say anybody can have success if they just have time. Blaine Gabbert proves that point. It does, however, say that the NFL is full of players who can consistently complete passes and have success at quarterback if they just have time to set their feet and throw the ball. You certainly want to build a good offensive line to make things as easy as possible on a quarterback. Having a dominating offensive line to prop up a quarterback isn't a viable strategy in today's NFL over the long haul for most teams, however. The salary cap makes that difficult. One of the things that separates the good quarterbacks from the bad quarterbacks is the ability to succeed under pressure, and sooner or later the quarterback either has to show it or gets bounced as a starter.
The degree to which Geno Smith can improve in this area will probably be one of the determining factors in whether he lasts as a starter.