Let's grade the performance of the 2015 Jets. This is the first post in a series grading the team's performance by position group. Today we are going to look at the quarterbacks.
This will utilize the following version of the John B Grading System:
A - An enormous success by any definition
B - Happy with the production
C - Not terribly thrilled; not terribly upset
D - A disappointment
F - A total catastrophe
2015 in review
When it comes to quarterback play, 2015 was the best Jets season in recent memory. Ryan Fitzpatrick broke the team's single-season franchise record with 31 touchdowns (against only 15 interceptions). His 3,905 passing yards was second best in team history behind only Joe Namath's 4,007 in 1967.
At the start of the season, the hope was that the defense and quality receivers the Jets sported would be enough to prop up a weak quarterback. As the season progressed, Fitzpatrick started becoming part of the team's success. Real chemistry blossomed between Fitzpatrick and his top two targets, Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. The timing and placement on the throws became a thing of beauty.
Fitzpatrick also did a nice job working around an offensive line that frequently gave him spotty protection. His scrambling ability added an extra dimension to the offense.
Geno Smith was supposed to be the starter before he was attacked in training camp, an incident that left him with a broken jaw. Geno got significant playing time in one game, a blowout loss to Oakland when Fitzpatrick was knocked out of the game early. It's tough to judge Geno. How do you make definitive statements about one game with 42 passes, particularly when so many came in garbage time? There were some positives such as anticipation seemingly improved and negatives such as two brutal sacks he took. It's tough to walk away with too many lasting impressions, though.
Bryce Petty was not expected to be part of the mix. This year was about working on the practice field. That is what happened.
Looking to 2016
The Jets need to lock up Fitzpatrick to a short-term deal. Was this a career year that is going to lead to regression? Was this the case of a late bloomer who finally found the right team running the right system? Either way, Fitzpatrick provides the Jets with a higher floor at the position than they have seen in years. Even if Fitzpatrick regresses to his 2010-2014 form, that is better quarterback play than the team has seen in some time. With talent at wide receiver and defense, that should be enough to keep the Jets competitive.
Petty is a wild card. Can he grow enough in the offseason to take the backup job?
Part of it depends on whether the Jets can find a quarterback early in the Draft. They certainly need a long-term solution. Fitzpatrick seems at best like a two year stopgap. On paper, this would be a great year for the Jets to find one because there would be no pressure for that guy to play immediately if Fitzpatrick is retained.
Fitzpatrick's limitations are well-known. He doesn't have a big arm. He has a tendency to lock onto his first read at times. He gambles too frequently. Even in a year where he set team records, most of his stats were nowhere near the league leaders.
This keeps the position out of A range. The Jets got competent quarterback play, though. Teams don't necessarily need spectacular play at the position to have a good season. They tend to need credible play, though. For the first time in years, the Jets got credible play.