New Jets quarterback Mike Vick has said plenty since signing with the team on Friday. And it’s clear from his remarks to the team’s website and his comments during a media conference call that his stated desire to “help” Geno Smith is more of the “watch and learn” variety than the sideline support variety.
So what does incumbent starter Geno Smith think of all this? So far, we don’t know. Smith and his agents have said nothing.
His football agent, Kim Miale, works for Geno’s marketing agent, Jay Z. That’s where things could get very interesting, given the lack of experience that both Miale and Jay Z have in dealing with challenges of this nature. How will they give Geno the best possible advice when they’ve never had to advise anyone in a similar situation?
Perhaps Camp Geno will decide that the challenge from Vick should be met with a strong verbal claim to the starting job and/or a not-so-subtle effort to poison the well about Vick by aggressively pointing out his flaws and his history to the New York and national media. Perhaps they’ll decide that Geno should say nothing other than, “I’m here to do whatever the team wants me to do. If they want me to play, I’ll play. If they don’t I won’t.”
While football considerations ultimately will determine who plays, public opinion will be a factor in how the decisions are received. If fans are clamoring for Vick, it will be a little harder to keep Vick on the sidelines. If fans believe Smith did enough last year to deserve a chance to play without worrying about being benched, Smith quickly can become viewed by the fan base as the victim of an unfair win-now attitude that values going all in with an aging, injury-prone felon over giving a young quarterback taken high in the second round a fair chance at becoming the long-term franchise quarterback over a one-year mercenary arrangement.
In any NFL city, and especially in New York, the things said and not said by players, agents, and coaches — on the record or off the record — will influence in some way the sides taken by fans. The ultimate question is whether the fans want to try to win now with a team that will have a hard time competing with the elite franchises in the AFC and an even harder time competing with the best teams in the NFC, or whether they want to lay the foundation for sustained success with a young quarterback who’ll be in the league a lot longer than Vick.
Regardless of how Geno Smith and his agents handle the situation, it requires careful thought and a deliberate plan for making Smith the player Jets fans ultimately are rooting for to be the guy who’s running the team they root for. Vick clearly has a plan, and his initial message already is creating a strong sense that it’s just a matter of time before he’ll be the guy taking the snaps.
The longer Geno and company wait to respond, the stronger that sense will become.