Smackdad has written an excellent piece arguing why Geno Smith should be the starter, to be found here. In it, he raises great points about how the Jets need to figure out if they have a QB to build around or if they have to go shopping in 2014. He also discusses how the Jets aren’t contenders in 2014, thus the Jets should take the opportunity to determine this season if Geno Smith is the franchise QB. Respectfully, I disagree with Smackdad, and I believe his approach is one that is fan-tinted, and not the type of approach a front office should take. Frankly, the better quarterback should play the game, and that better quarterback is Michael Vick.
First, the concept that the Jets "aren’t Super Bowl contenders" should serve as a driving force to play Geno Smith is one that the front office needs to be IMMEDIATELY erased. Could you imagine walking into the room going "well, we have no shot at this so Geno, you’re it." This is a league of parity, surprise, and hot streaks. While I don’t think the Jets have a shot at all... I’m a fan. I can think that. Me thinking that has zero effect on the team’s ability to make the Super Bowl or not. But the coaches and the team have to give the team every chance it can to get there. I’m not saying in every case you should play a vet over a young kid, but this idea shouldn’t be the driving force. Geno Smith was not a top of the draft, elite talent type that you should stick with no matter what. Michael Vick is a lot better than many of the journeyman QBs that are on rosters that draft quarterbacks early. And this team was 8-8 last year. While it was an anomalous and lucky 8-8, it was still 8-8 and not a 3-13 hopeless record. This team isn’t so ridiculously far from the Super Bowl that the team should wave the white flag on the season.
Secondly, the idea that benching Geno or making him the backup only prolongs the question is one that simply isn’t true. A team should absolutely know what they have in Geno Smith, and whether or not he’s worth building around. The team is there every day in camp, in practice. They see Geno’s preparation, ability to throw, ability to handle the Jets defense. You know who needs to see Geno Smith play games to know if he’s a good QB or going to be? Fans. An organization that can self-scout does not need to force a QB to start 2-3 seasons before knowing if they have to go QB shopping. A good organization will also know if they have a guy on the roster who’s worth keeping there. Does a guy like Brady or Tony Romo stick around and ascend the depth chart by accident? They were low or undrafted picks, guys who could have easily been the #3 QB or even churned. This team knew fairly quickly that Kellen Clemens stunk and that they had to go QB shopping. Did he need 30 games to make that determination? No, it was fairly apparent to the guys who saw him daily that he wasn’t cut out to play. The team should absolutely be able to tell if they need to go QB shopping in 2015 or not.
Thirdly, what kind of message is sent that competition means nothing? Geno being handed the starting job over a legitimate QB like Vick is bad juju. Geno needs to EARN his way. This guy was one of the worst QBs in football last season. Should you give that guy an unbridled path to the job after going out and signing a guy who has had a good amount of success in the NFL? Absolutely not. That is fractured thinking in my view. Let’s not discount what Geno can learn by sitting back and watching an experienced player who can still play like Vick take the field. Look at Rodgers, Rivers, and Romo. Those guys sat for multiple seasons, and all of them are 100 million dollar QBs.
Further, is Geno’s second season going to be the one that writes the book on him when you give him a pass for the first? Is a bad/mediocre second campaign going to be the one that makes the Jets go "well Geno’s done!"? That cuts either way. We could play Geno all year and learn nothing about him. Geno could also sit all year and the team can learn a lot about him. It cuts both ways.
Finally, Michael Vick is BETTER than Geno Smith, and that makes for a better fan experience. Vick is a gamer. Vick is a showman. He’s still an explosive runner, an elusive sack dodger, and still has arguably the most arm talent in football. He’s a player that can excite fans on game days with his dazzling blend of skills. He has a positive TD/INT ratio, his completion percentage is up since his Atlanta days, his average QB rating in Philadelphia was an 87.4. Geno Smith at times looked completely lost, and was only at his best really when the game plan was simplified. Our coach needs Ws, this year, otherwise he’s likely out of a job. This is a coach that the Jets fan, across the board, for whatever reason, are fond of. Wouldn’t you want to see the best opportunity for him to keep his job? As much as I hate to put a Rex platitude in here, Vick gives the team the best opportunity to win. Say what you will about Vick’s passing stats throughout his career, but he’s sporting a 55% career winning percentage playing with some very mediocre Atlanta teams and Philadelphia teams that had poor defenses.
Vick’s injury prone, yes. But so what? Is that not the point of having 2 good quarterbacks, just in case one gets injured? Vick isn’t going to suddenly become less injury prone because he’s a backup rather than a starter. If Geno goes down, Vick is going to have the same injury risk pitching in relief as he would starting. Vick is a football player. He’s here to help the team. He can’t do that if you try to protect him by sitting him on the bench. Injuries can happen to anyone at any time. You can’t refuse to play a healthy player because you fear he’s going to get injured. It’s like placing an inhibitor on your ATV because you think the engine might go if you enjoy it to the fullest. What do you have the ATV for if not to use it the way you want to?
The decision may not be the popular one, but it’s the right one. Michael Vick is our man at quarterback.