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Jets Got It Wrong Naming Geno Smith Starter

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

I think the Jets made a mistake naming Geno Smith the team's starting quarterback. It isn't that Geno should have been left definitively out of the running for the job. There just should be a competition for the Jets.

The Jets have players with established track records as quality starters. Darrelle Revis and Sheldon Richardson fit that description on defense. D'Brickashaw Ferguson and Eric Decker fit that description on offense. There are others. The team can reasonably conclude based on these players' past performances that they will be the best options. That does not exist at quarterback.

The Jets cannot definitively say Geno Smith is the best option they have at quarterback. To date, he has not even matched the moderate success Ryan Fitzpatrick had in 2014. Is it possible he will adapt to a new system? Sure. Could it be that his struggles in his first two years were due mainly to his supporting cast and coaching. Perhaps. These are only possible excuses for his poor play to date. These do not provide definitive proof he can play effectively. If Geno actually is ready to take off, beating Fitzpatrick in a camp battle would be a rather low hurdle to clear. There isn't any evidence this is the case at this point in time. What has the coaching staff seen? Are a handful of practice reps enough? Since 2010 it has been a Jets tradition at this time of the year to declare the unproven young quarterback either has a much better grasp of the playbook of the same system or has a better skillset for a new system than the old one. Those proclamations have not been followed by quality play once.

Having a competition when there is no proven starter is a good thing. There are benefits like sending the message everybody has to work hard. There are equal drawbacks in the message a move like this sends. The main concern, however, is more practical. Nobody knows how these players will respond to an offseason of work, a new system, new teammates, etc. Why not take the time to gather as much information as possible watching in training camp and the preseason?

I am somewhat sympathetic to the idea some have suggested that it is best to prepare a starter by giving him all of the first team reps. In an ideal world, this would be true. I am much less sympathetic to the idea the Jets should try to avoid a quarterback controversy. Ultimately, the same rebuttal applies to both. The most important thing is to pick the right quarterback. Yes, in an ideal world you would know, and get that guy all of the first team reps. It is better to have the right guy get half than the wrong guy get all of them. That is the risk the team runs by making a decision so hastily. As far as avoiding a controversy, that has little to do with what a team says. It is all about the performance of the starter. The Jets did they could to avoid speculation of a controversy last summer. The starting quarterback was still a topic of discussion all year long because neither Geno Smith nor Michael Vick played well enough to stake a permanent claim to the job. Rex Ryan best chance to winned us to death in 2012, but there was plenty of controversy because Mark Sanchez's play merited discussion of a quarterback change. If the starter you name before the third preseason game plays well in the regular season, there won't be a controversy. If you insist all summer you have your starter, and that guy plays poorly, there will be a controversy.

As much as the result is important for major decisions, so is the thought process. I loved it when the Jets drafted Leonard Williams. A lot of that had to do with the prospect Williams is. Part of it was completely independent of the player evaluation, though. Even if Williams isn't the great player we expect, it says something good about the front office that the people in charge will draft a player they think will have the most value over the course of his career over a player who will fix a weakness in year one. Maybe Geno Smith will have a great year. This decision-making process still does not seem like a good one. In the event Geno lights it up, he would easily win a camp competition anyway. Chan Gailey did leave himself a bit of leeway today. I hope he and Bowles reconsider their decision and make this more of a competition. More than that, I hope this is not indicative of the approach the Jets will take to their big decisions going forward.