Analysis: Geno Smith 'wins' by default
September, 4, 2013
By Rich Cimini | ESPN.com
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Quick takeaways on the Jets' decision to name Geno Smith the opening-day starter:
1. A no-brainer: With Mark Sanchez (shoulder) out a few weeks, Rex Ryan had no options at quarterback. Newly signed Brady Quinn arrived too late. Besides, his days of leading a franchise are done. Matt Simms is a nice story, but he's not a starting-caliber quarterback. The only question was when Ryan would make the announcement. That he waited until Wednesday was a joke. Asked about the charade Tuesday in a radio interview, Ryan, in his most candid comment in weeks, admitted, "I don't get it, either." Oops. It was a rare slip of the tongue by Ryan, who unwittingly tweaked GM John Idzik and his paranoid ways.
2. Ready or not: Is Smith ready? Of course not. He hasn't played in two weeks, and he took only 69 snaps in the preseason, roughly the equivalent of one game. Ryan no doubt will mention the 2009 situation with Sanchez, who started as a rookie and played well over the first three games. But here's the difference: Sanchez played in every preseason game that summer and actually played well in the last two. He was afforded the chance to build continuity with the other starters. He also benefited from a superior supporting cast. Smith had only three quarters with the starters, and he performed horribly in that assignment.
3. Fair competition? No way. It was a sham. The organization's goal at the start of training camp was to make Smith the starter. The plan got sidetracked because of his ankle injury, costing him a game, but the Jets got what they wanted in the end. It'll be interesting to hear Ryan's explanation. Did Smith get the job because he won the competition or because of Sanchez's shoulder injury? He probably will dance around it, as he does with most questions these days. Sources say that if Sanchez hadn't been injured, the team probably -- and reluctantly -- would've made him the opening day starter.
4. Is Sanchez done with the Jets? That's a strong conclusion to draw, but it's not out of the realm of possibility. Smith could be entrenched as the starter by the time Sanchez is healthy. Make no mistake, Smith will have a long leash. If he's struggling by Week 3 or Week 4, and needs to be pulled, it could be Quinn over Sanchez. They didn't sign Quinn to a guaranteed $715,000 (it will become guaranteed on Saturday) to be an emergency quarterback for two or three weeks. Emotionally, the organization is done with Sanchez, who could rot on the bench as an $8.25 million backup.
5. Game plan for Geno: Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg will tailor the game plan around Smith's strengths. Look for a lot of shotgun. Look for a moving pocket. Look for some pistol formation. Look for some read-option plays. Above all, the Jets need to establish a strong running game, protecting Smith from obvious passing situations. We'll see whether the pass-happy Mornhinweg can stay married to the running game.