Lupica: Jets go deep with Geno Smith

By on August 10, 2014

The Jets want to be right about Geno Smith and will give him the chance to prove he has what it takes to be their quarterback of the future.Alex Trautwig/Getty Images The Jets want to be right about Geno Smith and will give him the chance to prove he has what it takes to be their quarterback of the future.

You know why the Jets have to be right about Geno Smith? They have to be right because if they’re not, it means they were wrong about two quarterbacks in a row.

It didn’t look that way at the start with Mark Sanchez, when the Jets were making it to two AFC championship games in a row. But they were wrong. Now Sanchez is gone to Philadelphia, and even people in outer space know that the starting job is Geno’s to lose, even though nobody thinks he is going to lose it unless he slashes the tires on the team bus. And maybe not even then.

Once the Jets turned into the circus when Tim Tebow came to town to back up Sanchez, so the Jets have done everything possible to make sure it doesn’t happen again now that Mike Vick is the lefthander backing up Geno. Vick is not really competing for the starting job, it’s not even a competition, Geno so far has taken 80 percent of the first-team snaps.

And after the first preseason game the other night, after Geno had gone 4-for-6 with 33 passing yards, Rex Ryan talked about how well Geno had played. He even used the word “great” in assessing that performance, talking about how well Geno stepped up in the pocket and protected the ball.

Vick on the same night wasn’t exactly electrifying in his own small sampling, 3-for-6 he was, with 17 yards. But he did take the Jets on a long touchdown drive and got everybody’s blood flowing a couple of times with scrambles, and gave you (brief) reminders of why there was a time when we thought he really was going to be the most electrifying player in the game, before injuries and prison stole so much of his prime and his magic.

So Vick says all the right things about Geno and everybody says all the right things about the Jets quarterback situation, to the point where you think that if anyone did anything to the contrary, they’d disappear from the Jets’ second tour in Cortland, N.Y., this week in the middle of the night. And everybody understands how the program gets set back with the Jets if they are wrong about Geno, if he’s not good enough to take them back to the playoffs, if they have to start all over again, all this time after they were building the program around Sanchez.

It seems that no matter how hard Vick pushes him or how good he looks, it will be Geno Smith under center against the Raiders when the season starts.

You don’t have to be a math or analytics genius to see that even if they’re right about the next young starting quarterback after Geno, he might not start to come into his own until almost a full decade after they drafted Sanchez. That’s the timeline when you’re wrong about a young quarterback.

But this whole thing is interesting, not because we’re talking about future Hall of Famers here, but because of how complicated it all is. Ask yourself this question: Which quarterback gives the Jets the best chance to make the playoffs this year, so the team doesn’t go four years under Rex Ryan without making the playoffs?

Maybe Rex doesn’t have to make the playoffs, maybe all he’s got to do is have the team show some promise and some fight the way it did last season on its way to an 8-8 finish for Woody Johnson to keep him around again. But if he really is coaching for his job, you wonder which quarterback he thinks gives him the best chance to hold on to it? Here is something Ryan said this week before the game against the Colts at MetLife on Thursday night:

“Well, I think that if you have Mike Vick come in here, you better be on top of your game, and obviously Geno is. Whether (Smith) needed Mike Vick to be here or not, I’m not sure. But probably not because I know Geno wants it in the worst way to be a great quarterback and the preparation that he did in the offseason, the things he did, but certainly with Mike Vick in there, that does push him.”

But for the time being, one game into the preseason, it seems that no matter how hard Vick pushes him or how good he looks, it will be Geno Smith under center against the Raiders when the season starts for real in September.

I am one who wanted the Jets to draft Geno, I want him to be the guy, even with that awful stretch in the middle of last season, the kid came on at the end, did get his team to 8-8, showed you a lot of arm and a lot of heart, despite all the rookie mistakes he made, and kept making. But I don’t know if he’ll ever be a top quarterback and neither do John Idzik, the Jets general manager, or Rex. And neither do you.

The Jets are clearly playing a long game with Geno Smith. You hear, well, they didn’t use a No. 1 pick on him, it’s different than if they turned out to be wrong about a No. 1 pick. But guess what? Once you hand him the job, you’re treating him that way, whether you took him in the second round or not. He is the new Sanchez. And they desperately want to be right, because the new general manager doesn’t want to be wrong about his guy the way his predecessor was about Sanchez.

Mike Vick leads the Jets on a scoring drive on Thursday night, making you wonder if the team's best chance to win this year would be better with Vick behind center.Elsa/Getty Images Mike Vick leads the Jets on a scoring drive on Thursday night, making you wonder if the team’s best chance to win this year would be better with Vick behind center.

There is one more thing in play here: Usually teams that don’t know who their quarterback is in August don’t end up doing much in January. So there’s that.

But if it were an open competition, if they were sharing first-team snaps and getting the same amount of time with the first team in preseason before coaches get their starting quarterbacks out of there, who would be the Jets’ quarterback against the Raiders in September?

Put it another way: If you didn’t know who the Jets starter was watching the first half of the Colts game the other night, who would you think it was?

Rory is the king, LeBron is the chairman & Buck’s O’s are rocking it…

-Whether Rory McIlroy wins the PGA this weekend or not, you have to know something about him:

He’s LeBron in golf now.

And the real LeBron is already the leader in the clubhouse for Executive of the Year in the NBA if the Kevin Love deal goes through!

If you don’t think things change fast in sports, look at where the Cleveland Cavaliers were the night of the NBA draft, when for the second year in a row they had the first pick in that draft and look at where they are now.

Kyrie, Kevin and the King in Cleveland.

Got a nice ring to it, doesn’t it?

By the way: It’s still hard to believe that the Timberwolves passed on that exciting offer to take Amar’e Stoudemire, Iman Shumpert and Tim Hardaway, Jr. and give us Kevin

Love in return.

I sure am glad the Mets didn’t trade Murph at the trade deadline.

-Ray Rice got that big ovation from Ravens fans the other night before the team’s first preseason game because, let’s face it, those fans have had a whole lot of practice welcoming back players who’ve ended up on the wrong side of the law.

And because more fans than we care to think about are incredibly forgiving if they think the guy they’re cheering gives their team a better chance to win.

-The Yankees taking three out of four last week from the Tigers — and nearly sweeping them — was the best week they’ve had at the Stadium in a season-and-a-half.

But their circumstances have changed a lot over the past few years.

Once they sold their fans on the notion that it was World Series or bust, that’s why their manager wears that No. 28 on his back.

Now they’re just another team trying to get into the tournament.

-Since the All-Star break, Buck Showalter’s Orioles have been the best team in baseball.

They have played a series on the road against the A’s, two series against the Angels, two against the Mariners, played a game against the Nationals, three more on the road against Toronto, and now are playing the Cardinals at Camden Yards before the Yankees come to town.

Of all the series they’ve played, they’ve lost one, against the A’s, when Zach Britton — whom Buck installed as his closer and has mostly pitched brilliantly — gave up a walk-off home run on a Friday night to Josh Donaldson.

We’ve been talking all year about what a “down” year it is in the American League East because the Red Sox have fallen down this way and the Rays waited too long to make their run.

It’s not down in Baltimore.

-Of course Tiger Woods showed some toughness by finishing his second round at the PGA despite obviously having a sore back, a few days after he walked off the course at Firestone with the same issues.

And of course this was all covered on television as if he were braver than a Medal of Honor winner.

But Tiger chose to play the tournament, and chose to play on after he was clearly in distress, so there was nothing noble or gallant about any of this.

It was the great Australian Davis Cup captain Harry Hopman who once said it best, for everyone:

“If you’re hurt, you don’t play. If you play, you’re not hurt.”

Tiger needs to go get healthy, and then go get a new coach.

Or just put his pride and arrogance aside and go back to working with his old coach, Butch Harmon, the best swing coach there has ever been.

-I had a feeling that the bromance between the new mayor and Rev. Al wasn’t going to be forever.

If the people running college athletics and these big conferences think that there is a way to pay some athletes but not all of them, and if they think there is a way to do that without bringing even more corruption into the increasingly big business of college athletics, they’re insane.

I think the guys filling the arenas and the stadiums should get paid, too.

Just tell me how we’re going to do it.

You think Kevin Love should call a press conference to tell everybody he’s taking his talents to Lake Erie?

By the end of Tiger’s round Friday, the announcers made it sound as if we were watching a state funeral.

***

The Mike Lupica Show is heard Monday through Friday at noon and Sunday at 9 a.m. on ESPN-98.7

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