The New York Jets' Quarterback Competition: A Roundtable Discussion with Turn on the Jets

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Feb 21, 2013; Indianapolis, IN, USA; New York Jets general manager John Idzik speaks at a press conference during the 2013 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Chris Gross:

By now, it is no secret that the New York Jets will take 5 quarterbacks into mini-camp next month. While General Manager John Idzik has preached competition at every position, it would be foolish to believe that all five of these players will be brought into training camp as well. There simply are not enough reps to go around late in the summer to get an accurate assessment of the players, as well as getting the eventual starter enough time with the starting offense. Ultimately, this competition will come down to three players – Mark Sanchez, Geno Smith, and David Garrard.
To me, Garrard will end up as the backup one way or another this season. The starting position will come down to either Sanchez or Smith. Can Smith’s presence push Sanchez out of his recent slump and help him return to the quarterback we knew in 2010? Or is Sanchez all but done in New York, with it now being Smith’s turn to try and reverse the fortunes of the quarterback position for this franchise? Ultimately, I believe Smith ends up beating out both Sanchez and Garrard this summer. At that point, Sanchez will be shopped on the trade market, most likely to a team that has lost a quarterback due to injury. If he cannot be traded, he will be released and the Jets will begin the season with Smith as the starter, Garrard as the backup, and Greg McElroy as the number 3.

Trying to figure who will win this quarterback competition is like guessing the weather a month out.  Even if you think you have an idea, you don’t really have a perfect picture.  I can draw a picture based on historical data of Sanchez, Garrard, and McElroy, but not Geno Smith.

My first assumption is that Geno Smith won’t play in 2013.  I base this on the fact that Rex Ryan is pro- Sanchez, and Marty Mornhinweg does not have a track record of starting rookies over veterans.  Therefore, unless Geno Smith blows away mini camps, and has an 80% completion percentage against first string defenses, I will go on record as saying he will ride the bench and learn the ropes as the 3rd string QB.  That’s right not 1, not 2, but 3rd string.

David Garrard historically is a 61% passer, some years a little above, some a little below.  However, he has a trend his last 3 seasons of starting. He had 7, 14, and 11 fumbles his last 3 seasons as a starter with the Jags, add to that he had 13, 10, and 15 interceptions those last 3 seasons.  That is an average of 23+ turnovers a season in his best years.  Sanchez’s average his past 3 seasons has been 27 combined fumbles and interceptions.  Sanchez averaged 22 TD’s per year the past 3 years, Garrard averaged about the same losing out by about 2 touchdowns overall in  a 3 year span.  If the thinking is that Garrard can come in as a proven veteran with more accuracy, and better ball security, he’s not going to win this battle.  Add to that he is 35, while  Sanchez is 26 and you see where I’m going.  It’s unlikely Garrard wins any QB competition.

Mark Sanchez had 2 positive years, followed by 2 down years.  His third year, however, he accounted for 32 touchdowns.  While many are quick to point out his double-digit turnovers, I would also be quick to point out the 32 touchdowns which was 11th most out of 32 starting quarterbacks in 2011.  The 2012 season was more of an aberration than a norm, thanks to the injuries.  There was no continuity, which made it impossible to build on the bright spots of 2011.  Career wise he’s a 55% completion rate, but because of his slow rate of improvement I would expect this number to creep up to roughly 60% in a more QB friendly offense.

Last but not least is the dark horse Greg McElroy.  If I had to bet today, Greg McElroy has the most to gain from this competition.  He’s a born winner.  He won in high school, he won in college.  He had a 70+ % completion rate his final year of college at Alabama.  He’s entering his 3rd season, he started one game last year and got a taste.  In that one game he had 200+ yards passing, and a 60% completion rate.  This offense is going to be all about running, and completing a lot of short and intermediate passes.

If I had to make that bet today, McElroy will be the most impressive in the quarterback completion, but he still won’t start.  I see Sanchez doing just enough to show improvement, and even though he won’t statistically beat out McElroy, he will start.  McElroy will be the back up QB, having shown enough, that he can start and push Sanchez.  Geno Smith and David Garrard will be a distant 3rd and 4th respectively, which means Garrard gets cut.  Sanchez starts, McElroy 2nd string, Geno Smith sits and learns for a year and possibly more depending on the season.

Dec 30, 2012; Orchard Park, NY, USA; New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez (6) during the game against the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Bills beat the Jets 28-9. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports


It is no secret that I am a big Sanchez supporter. It’s because I look at the picture as a whole and not just the downfalls or slide and decline. I see the forest and not just the trees and that’s why I can still say with confidence that I think Mark Sanchez CAN and WILL be a starting QB in the NFL in coming years. The problems Sanchez has now are many of the same he had in college and coming out of it. The argument that he declared early and shouldn’t have, that he should have listened to Pete Carroll and stayed in school are going to follow Mark around for as long as the infamous play from Thanksgiving night that I refuse to name will. With only 16 games (and Rose Bowl MVP) under his belt at the time the Jets moved up to #5 to draft him, people really shouldn’t be surprised that the Jets staff that has NEVER coached up a QB wasn’t able to help Sanchez overcome the deficits that followed him from USC. He was known to panic a bit in the pocket, to stare down his receivers.

But this year there’s a real chance for Sanchez to succeed. WCO is a perfect fit for him. He’s never had a problem with preparation, despite what the media want people to believe. Give him some receivers, a running back who, you know, runs, and some decent protection and the mental mistakes will cut down, the confidence will build up. The best scenario for the Jets AND for Sanchez is to provide him with a corps of players around him that wouldn’t rival the guys cut from the JV team at the local high school (the likes of which he had last year), a coaching team that actually believes in him and let him win a few games to build his confidence AND his value. The problem isn’t so much what the team will allow, it’s what the fans will. And I think that, in the end, may be the key. At Week 1, I predict it will be Sanchez on a short leash as starter, with Garrard as backup and Geno Smith learning the ropes from both guys. Simms’ and McElroy’s days are numbered beyond being arms in camp and some insurance in case Garrard is the weathered player some assume he is. This IS Mark Sanchez’s job to lose. And he very well might, but it won’t be without having a few weeks under center in the regular season to prove whether or not he deserves to hold the ball or the clipboard. I think a lot of people are going to be surprised by Mark Sanchez this year. And yes, in a good way.
We thank Joe Caporoso and his staff from Turn on the Jets.  Please check out his site, Turn on the Jets, as Joe, and each one of his writers, bring excellent thoughts to the table, and compelling reads with every entry.  Check them out today!
So, what do you guys think?  Sound off below.
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