NY Jets: Why Geno Smith makes sense for 2016

Dec 14, 2014; Nashville, TN, USA; New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith (7) looks to pass against the Tennessee Titans during the first half at LP Field. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 14, 2014; Nashville, TN, USA; New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith (7) looks to pass against the Tennessee Titans during the first half at LP Field. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports /

For the NY Jets heading into next season, it makes a ton of sense for them to stick with quarterback Geno Smith.

Smith is a much maligned football player in Jet fans circles. Most fans would love to see the Jets trade him or even cut the embattled quarterback. The most common complaint concerning Smith, is his record in his first two seasons with the Jets.

We can make excuses for Smith in his first two years, lack of an adequate offensive line, lack of receiver options, inexperience and all would be true. Smith was a poor starter for the Jets, is as far as most of his critics go when evaluating him.

I’m not going to come out and say that Smith is the franchise quarterback of the future for the Jets, that would be giving much more credit to his game than it deserves. That being said, Smith isn’t the bust many Jet fans claim he is, in fact I expect he will have the opportunity to start for the Jets in 2016.

Many will think I’ve lost my mind, but I’m of the belief that Smith will win the starting job for the Jets this summer. If the Jets stick with the same players at the position, I believe Smith will once again beat out Ryan Fitzpatrick in camp for the starting spot. Maybe fans have forgotten, but last summer Smith was the far better quarterback on the field through camp and into preseason. The competition wasn’t even close, Fitzpatrick was beaten hands down.

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When Smith had his jaw broken, his season ended, and whether or not fans will admit it now, many of them were upset that Fitzpatrick became the starter.

Fitzpatrick had just won the job by default and many fans began to write the season off. Fitzpatrick wasn’t met with open arms, Jet fans had serious doubts that he would succeed with this offense.

Even when Fitzpatrick struggled mid season, there were fans clamoring to bring Smith back as the starter. Fitzpatrick overcame his struggles and Jet fans forgot that Smith was riding the bench.  Smith still has his supporters in the Jet fan base, and though I’m not a huge fan, I think Smith deserves a final shot at quarterback for the Jets.

I know many will disagree with me when I say Smith should be given the chance to compete next summer. Just as many will claim he shouldn’t be here for next season. I get that, from what fans have seen from Smith, they have written him off. It’s my belief however, that what we’ve seen is a young quarterback that has struggled to make the transition from college to the NFL ranks.

In his first year, Smith attempted 443 passes, completed 247 passes for 3,o46 yards, giving Smith a 55.8 completion rate for his rookie campaign. Smith threw for 12 touchdowns and 21 interceptions on the year as he ended his rookie season with a 38.6 quarterback rating.

Since no quarterbacks were taken in the second round this year for comparison, I turned to the 2014 NFL Draft. Derek Carr was taken in the second round in 2014, his rookie campaign looked like this: 588 attempt, 348 completions for 3,270 yards, giving Carr a 58.1 completion percentage rate. Carr threw 21 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, he ended his season with a 38.2 quarterback rating.

Smith and Carr’s completion rate were almost identical in their rookie seasons, and their season ending quarterback ratings are as well. Jimmy Garoppolo was the other second round pick in 2014. Playing behind Tom Brady, Garroppolo has seen limited opportunities to play, but his stats look like this for his rookie campaign: 27 attempted passes, 19 completions for 182 yards, and a 70.2 completion rating.

Garropolo threw for one touchdown, no interceptions and a 19.0 quarterback rating.  It’s not fair to compare the two as Smith was forced into starting, while Garoppolo was allowed to ride the bench to develop.

Second round quarterbacks have not played extremely well in their rookie campaigns. Many of the comparisons I’ve seen fans use to evaluate Smith have been to first rounders in his class, and let’s face it, that is an unfair comparison.  Most years there is a steep drop off between the first round quarterbacks, and those chosen later. Most second round quarterbacks are given time to develop, an opportunity neither Carr or Smith were given.

Sep 7, 2014; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) and New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith (7) meet at midfield after a game at MetLife Stadium. The Jets defeated the Raiders 19-14. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

In Smith’s second year, fans expectations were far from realistic, they expected Smith to come out and run the offense like a top tier starter. It didn’t happen, perhaps because of the system, maybe because of the talent around him, but mostly because he was a second year kid struggling to adjust to yet another new system.

For 2014, Smith’s stats looked like this: 367 attempts, 219 completions for 2,525 yards. Smith threw 13 touchdowns and 13 interceptions on the season and ended the year with a 44.3 quarterback rating. Carr’s second year looked like this: 573 attempts, 350 completions for 3,987 yards. Carr threw for 32 touchdowns and 13 interceptions on the season and ended the year with a 49.2 quarterback rating.

To be fair, it should be noted that Smith appeared in 14 games in his second year, while Carr threw in all 16 games. It also should be noted that Smith had his opportunities drastically reduced, while Carr’s role was increased. In the end, both threw for 13 interceptions and their quarterback ratings were fairly close. Despite the similarities, Carr is considered a developing quarterback, while many have written Smith off entirely.

Smith was a young “college spread offense” quarterback when he arrived in New York. Many analysts predicted he would struggle at the pro ranks if not given time to develop, but the Jets thrust him into the starting role, year one. Smith needed to adjust to the NFL game and many of the responsibilities that college quarterbacks don’t deal with. On top of that, Smith has been asked to learn a new system in every year that he’s played.

Despite all those difficulties, Smith has actually shown some development. In his rookie campaign, he threw for a quarterback rating of 38.6, and a 44.3 rating in 2014, in limited duty in 2015, his rating jumped to a mark of 66.2 rating. Smith also saw a decrease in interceptions from his rookie campaign to his second year, seeing his interceptions reduced from a high of 21 in 2013, to 13 in 2014.

That number is still high, but it shows Smith was actually developing in some small way. The Jets were dismal across the board in 2014, so it was unfair to lay all the blame for their failures at Smith’s feet. For the record, Smith appeared in two games for the Jets this year, throwing for a 66.2 quarterback rating and posting a 64.3 completion rating.

Again, I’m not saying that Smith will develop into the Jet’s next Joe Namath, but he still has a chance to improve. He’s going into the final year of his rookie contract, and the Jets would be wise to give him his shot. No matter what the Jets do at the position in the off-season, Smith should be given the opportunity to compete. Smith beat out Fitzpatrick in camp last season, and the Jets owe him his shot. He missed out on the job because of an injury, and despite what many fans will say, that is not a way most NFL starters lose their jobs.

Dec 27, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (14) and New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith (7) warmup for their game against the New England Patriots at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, if the Jets do bring Fitzpatrick back, Smith makes sense for 2016. Whomever wins the starting role in that scenario, the Jets would be in good shape at the position. If Fitzpatrick wins, Smith would be an adequate backup for the Jets at the right price. Should Smith beat out Fitzpatrick, the Jets will have a backup quarterback who they know can step in and win games. Giving Smith a shot at starting makes sense for 2016.

Smith makes sense for the Jets, let the young signal caller compete with whomever the Jets bring in for the season. His development has been slow undoubtedly, but there are signs he’s improved. With any luck Smith has learned a few things backing up Fitzpatrick in 2015. The Jets have one last chance to see what Smith can bring in 2016, they’d be wise to find out once and for all. The Jets have nothing to lose here, if he flops he can be used as a backup or they can choose to simply cut him. If however he wins, the Jets would have an upgrade over Fitzpatrick and still have a viable backup.

The one thing the Jets should not do is cut Smith prior to camp and bank all their money into Fitzpatrick. Despite what many fans are claiming, the Jets can ill afford to cut Smith and rely on Fitzpatrick alone. Fitzpatrick had a year he’s not likely to repeat and his injury concerns certainly are still there. Cutting Smith and spending big on Fitzpatrick could cost them dearly if they do. I’ve said for a long time the Jets need to allow a quarterback to develop. Smith now has two years under his belt and a year on the bench, it is time for him to step up and prove he has the talent to succeed.

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Many quarterbacks take the “next step” in their third year, and Smith has to prove himself this year. At his price and draft position, it makes little football sense to remove him from the roster. It also makes little football sense to assign him to the bench and not allow him to compete. So, for me, Smith makes absolute sense for 2016.

I know many of you will disagree with me here. I’d like to hear why. I kindly ask you to leave me a comment below and join us as we talk Jet football!!