Will the 2016 New York Jets quarterbacks be better, worse or the about the same as the 2015 Jets?
The 2015 Jets featured Ryan Fitzpatrick as the starter, with Geno Smith and Bryce Petty in backup roles. Fitzpatrick played 15+ games for the Jets in 2015 and set the franchise record with 31 TD passes. He also threw for 3905 yards and tossed 15 INTs. Fitzpatrick finished the 2015 season with an 88.0 passer rating, nearly exactly league average. Geno Smith played 3+ quarters of one game and finished with 265 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT and a passer rating of 87.9. The Jets as a team finished with the 19th best passer rating in the NFL.
The 2016 Jets will again feature Ryan Fitzpatrick as the starter and some combination of Geno Smith, Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg as backups.
At this comparatively late stage of his career Fitzpatrick is more likely to suffer regression from his 2015 level of play than improvement. Fitzpatrick also plays with a certain reckless abandon, which, though it only cost him less than a game in 2015, is a risk to cost him more in 2016. Mark Fitzpatrick down for slightly worse play.
Geno Smith is an unknown. He played less than 1 game in 2015. It is difficult to know what to expect from him in 2016. In all likelihood he won't play much. However, if Fitzpatrick falters or gets injured Smith is the likely replacement. Given his youth and given that 2016 represents his second year in offensive coordinator Chan Gailey's system, I'm going to tentatively mark Geno down for a better 2016. That in no way implies Geno will post a better than 88 passer rating, as his 2015 number is too small a sample to be in any way meaningful.
Bryce Petty is also likely improved over 2015, although if he ever gets to play in 2016 the overall level of Jets QB play will almost surely be considerably worse than 2015. Petty may well be the odd man out in the event the Jets choose not to carry four quarterbacks on the 53 man roster.
Christian Hackenberg is a complete unknown. His college tape is not promising, although there are reasons for his underwhelming performance. Regardless of why Hackenberg did not produce as a collegian, he is very unlikely to be prepared to play at a competent NFL level in 2016. Hackenberg will likely not even be active in 2016, unless one of the two top quarterbacks goes down with injury. If Hackenberg ever sees action in 2016 outside of mop up duty, the 2016 quarterback performance will almost certainly be worse than 2015.
Putting it all together, Fitzpatrick is the starter and will likely suffer a bit of regression. Unless Fitzpatrick is injured or benched for poor play no other quarterbacks will matter. If Fitzpatrick does go down, Geno Smith is almost certain to be his replacement. While it is possible Geno would rise to such an occasion and outplay Fitzpatrick's 2015 level, until we actually see it, that's not the way to bet. If Geno plays he might exceed anything Fitzpatrick has done, but the better bet is the level of quarterback play declines. If either of the other two quarterbacks play, the level of Jets quarterback play will almost certainly fall off a cliff. Overall the 2016 quarterback position looks like it will be a bit worse than 2015. Fitzpatrick is likely to be a bit worse, and anyone who replaces him is likely to be worse than 2015 Fitzpatrick. I'm predicting the Jets quarterbacks in 2016 will be worse than the 2015 group.
What about you? How do you see this year's quarterbacks group compared to the 2015 Jets? Will the 2016 group be better, worse, or the same? Let us know in your comments, and give us your reasons why.