By Parker Jones
To call the New York Jets’ quarterbacking situation “confusing” is like calling Tim Tebow “squeaky clean”—a gargantuan understatement.
The Jets jettisoned one quarterback after last year’s odd experiment, but it wasn’t the one many fans would have preferred. Instead of cutting embattled starter Mark Sanchez, the Jets let loose the aforementioned Tebow, who was brought in for one of the most baffling seasons of inaction in NFL history.
To make matters even more chaotic, the Jets used a high draft pick to bring in quarterback Geno Smith, who some believe could actually replace Sanchez as starter if No. 6 doesn’t improve immediately. Yes, the situation is dicey for Gang Green. No, it’s not going away. In fact, the unresolved situation is just heating up as we turn our attention to Week 1 of the NFL season. While Sanchez will likely pilot the Jets’ offense come Week One, the position is up for grabs.
How does the rookie look?
Pretty good, so far. Smith hurt himself in the first preseason game and sat out the second one. But he’s taken command of the unit in practice and has earned a start for the Jets’ upcoming preseason game against the Giants. Those who bought West Virginia Mountaineers football tickets know he was dazzling during his career, which included a 2012 season that saw him throw for 4,205 yards with a whopping 42 touchdowns (and only 19 interceptions).
But he fell flat in the Pinstripe Bowl against Syracuse and lacked the ability, in general, to come through in big games. Even so, any quarterback who throws for 97 touchdowns in three seasons as a college starter will eventually get a legitimate shot at an NFL job, and rightfully so.
How about the incumbent?
Sanchez hasn’t played great, but Smith has to clearly outplay Sanchez to unseat him. Sanchez went 13-of-23 in the second preseason game, playing into the third quarter while throwing one touchdown and one interception. He led five scoring drives in a 37-13 win, but his pick came in the red zone, and he also cost the Jets a chance at an end-of-half field goal by (once again) holding onto the ball too long.
Sanchez has basically proven what he brings to the table – adequate ball-managing abilities and the inability to win without a lot of help around him – but Geno Smith (despite believing he should have been a first-round pick) has to show he can do better before winning the job.
Is Matt Simms in the mix?
No. He’s the third-string clipboard-holder, end of story. He got extended play in the second preseason game only because of Smith’s injury, going 5-of-5 for 73 yards. He hasn’t been bad, but he’s a poor man’s Sanchez, offering little chance of actually winning games on his own.
Why wasn’t Tebow good enough for that role?
We may never know the real reasons behind Tebow Time in New York. Did head coach Rex Ryan ever want him there? Did Ryan dislike him? We do know Tebow was brought in specifically to play quarterback – and open up a Wildcat offense – but he actually took fewer snaps than the punter and was left to fester on the sideline.
He never got his fair shake, even as the Jets crash-landed to a 6-10 record. He may never be a serviceable quarterback in the NFL, but the Jets never even gave him a shot. If New England finds success with him (like Denver did), the Jets will have egg on their face.
Is coach Rex Ryan on the hot seat?
You better believe it. This is as simple as it gets: If the Jets succeed in 2013, Ryan stays. If they falter, both he and Sanchez – his hand-picked signal-caller – are out. No pressure, though.