Mehta: Forget Geno Smith, Jets need a franchise QB

By on March 25, 2015

PHOENIX – The Jets’ feel-good offseason has been tempered with a sobering NFL truism: You simply cannot win the ultimate prize without a real quarterback.

Although no sane person expects Todd Bowles to hoist the Lombardi Trophy at Levi’s Stadium on February 7, 2016, the quarterback quandary could be the anchor that prevents anyone in green-and-white from reaching the Promised Land before the apocalypse. (Or at least many years).

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History, however, suggests that it won’t be far enough.

Eleven of the 12 playoff teams last season had quality quarterbacks. It would have been a clean sweep if Carson Palmer didn’t suffer a season-ending torn ACL. Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton, one year removed from a 4000-yard, 33-TD season, was the “worst” playoff quarterback other than Cardinals’ emergency third-stringer Ryan Lindley.

The others (from godly to very good): Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck, Ben Roethlisberger, Tony Romo, Joe Flacco, Russell Wilson, Matthew Stafford and Cam Newton.

The current crop of Jets quarterbacks are not in the same stratosphere as even Dalton. Geno Smith is every bit the enigma that he was when he tumbled out of the first round two years ago. Ryan Fitzpatrick is the epitome of a veteran journeyman best suited to provide insurance.

RELATED: WOODY JOHNSON SAYS GENO SMITH ‘WAY AHEAD’ OF MARCUS MARIOTA

The search for Brady, Manning, Rodgers or Luck can be a frustrating and likely futile pursuit, but the reality is that Bowles won’t be able to “get a Super Bowl back to the city,” as he hopes, without a star player at the most important position in team sports.

“There’s different ways to skin a cat, so you got try to win in different ways,” Bowles said. “You play with the quarterback you have and you limit the mistakes. As long as he’s confident in what he’s doing and doesn’t lose the game and is smart with the football, you got a chance to win the ballgame.”

Time, of course, has proven that caretakers under center can only take teams so far absent a historic defense or rushing attack. The new pass-happy NFL has made it impossible to hide quarterbacks. You don’t absolutely need Brady, but these Jets signal callers aren’t going to cut it.

“The quarterback does have to make plays, without a doubt,” Bowles said. “He has to make a ton of plays… but there’s a lot of positions in various areas that can help that quarterback out too. So to put it all on his shoulders in our situation would be wrong.”

Maccagnan and Bowles have taken the smart approach by beefing up the supporting cast this offseason, but you can’t win it all with an understudy under center.

“You have to win with the pieces you have until you get the pieces you want,” Bowles said.

Smith might be salvageable in a new simplified system better tailored to his strengths, but he’s still a great unknown. His 41 career turnovers, 57.5 completion rate and 71.5 passer rating aren’t anywhere close to good enough to get Bowles to where he wants to go. Fitzpatrick is an emergency stop gap.

RELATED: JETS GM MACCAGNAN WON’T TALK MARIOTA VS. WINSTON

The Jets will have private workouts with Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, the top two signal callers in the upcoming draft, but the team’s current state of the position isn’t pretty.

The organization’s wise off-season moves should improve a four-win team from a year ago, but one disturbing and annoying question remains: Will the Jets ever find a quarterback?

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