On Tuesday morning, Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News tweeted that Geno Smith will start at quarterback for the Jets in the team’s third preseason game, if he suffers no setbacks with his ankle injury. Later in the day, Mehta took aim at the entire quarterback competition in New York with far more than 140 characters or less.
Calling it “farcical” and a “charade,” Mehta writes that Smith never actually was competing with Mark Sanchez. Instead, the organization wants Smith to start, and the organization created a rigged competition aimed at allowing Smith to win the job.
While Mehta’s assessment may be on the money, we’ve got no problem with it. Young quarterbacks who are preordained to start routinely must “win” the job. It helps the young quarterback avoid (or at least minimize) the perception inside and outside the locker room that the job has been handed to him. Also, it helps the young quarterback build a little confidence before he’s thrown to the wolves in Week One.
Last year, for example, the Dolphins installed rookie Ryan Tannehill at No. 3 on the depth chart. We knew that the Dolphins wouldn’t leave the eighth overall pick on the bench when the real games began, and they didn’t.
This year, the Jets have 11 million reasons to keep Sanchez on the sidelines. If he plays well enough in 2013 to create a groundswell in the media and among the fans for Sanchez to return next season, he’ll have a $2 million roster bonus and a $9 million base salary. While in theory those dollars could be reconfigured or reduced, why would Sanchez yield any leverage? If the Jets become backed into a corner to keep Sanchez, he needs to simply take the position that his contract should be honored — or he should be released.
The Jets haven’t previously released Sanchez for 8.25 million reasons. He gets his full salary this year whether he’s on the team or not, and if the Jets cut him they have to pay him in full within 30 days. If the Jets had let Sanchez go and if Smith had popped an Achilles tendon on the first day of training camp, the Jets would have already paid Sanchez to not be available to play in place of Smith.
It’s obvious that new G.M. John Idzik, who has said he’ll have a “pretty big role” in picking the starter, wants to see what the player taken with a high second-round draft pick can do. With the Jets possibly in line for a high first-round pick in 2014, they need to know whether they need to use that pick on a quarterback.
The coaching staff may feel differently. Sanchez could give Rex Ryan a better chance to win enough games to keep his job. If Sanchez stumbles, Smith could then get the job in garbage time of the season, with Ryan trying to develop enough hope and promise with Smith to earn the right to keep coaching him in 2014.
Regardless, Mehta believes that two quarters of turnover-free football will deliver the Week One starting job for Smith. Actually, Smith may be able to get away with a pick or two, especially if Sanchez can’t protect the ball when facing backups in the second half of the game.