The decision of the New York Jets to spend the 39th overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft on quarterback Geno Smith presents more layers than a blue-ribbon county fair onion.
The most intriguing story line immediately drove the headlines: What does this mean for Sanchez? The easy answer, especially in light of G.M. John Idzik’s non-answers, is that the arrival of Smith nudges Sanchez’s inevitable departure from after the 2013 season to before it.
But what does it mean for the head coach who remains firmly on the hot seat, and whose public words and demeanor increasingly reflect that his uncertain status is slowly, gradually wearing him down? NFL organizational dynamics entail one undeniable truth: A new owner wants to hire his own G.M., a new G.M. wants to hire his own head coach, and a new head coach wants to find his own quarterback. Idzik turned that basic reality on its head by picking the quarterback who will survive Rex Ryan’s tenure, if Ryan goes after the 2013 season.
This means that, if Ryan goes, the next coach will be stuck with Geno Smith. Naturally, any coach who interviews for the job will say, “Sure, I want Geno Smith.” And then, once the coach has the job, the effort to replace Smith can be launched, Josh McDaniels/Jay Cutler-style.
Idzik is smart enough to realize this. Which makes us wonder whether Idzik believes that Ryan’s potential replacement already is on the coaching staff.
After Tony Sparano was fired by an NFL team for the second time in 12 months, Ryan declared that he wants an offensive coordinator who reflects Ryan’s desire to field a “physical, aggressive, attack-style” team. But the guy who ultimately was hired, Marty Mornhinweg, uses an offense based not on physicality and aggression but precision and timing.
That makes us wonder whether Mornhinweg was picked not by Ryan but by Idzik. And the decision to draft Smith with Ryan still on the job makes us wonder whether Idzik would avoid the dilemma of hiring a coach who may not want Smith by simply making Mornhinweg the next head coach.
Of course, it’ll be hard to reward Mornhinweg if the overall roster plays poorly enough to get Ryan fired. But as we try to make sense of a decision that could create an even weirder situation in New York come January as the G.M. who was handcuffed with a coach tries to handcuff a coach with a quarterback, the simplest explanation could be that Mornhinweg, who presumably is on board with tutoring Smith, would simply take over.