Thoughts and observations on the see-saw New York Jets:
1. A decision with ramifications: If Rex Ryan benches the struggling Geno Smith at some point, it means Smith's season-long audition is over. The Jets would try to spin it another way, of course, but you don't replace a second-round pick in a playoff race for an unproven commodity (Matt Simms) unless you're absolutely convinced Smith isn't the answer. They'd be admitting they blew the draft pick. That's why I think Ryan, with perhaps nudging from GM John Idzik, won't make a panic move. Many fans are screaming for Simms, but be careful for what you wish for.
"He's a developing reserve," said an AFC scout, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "You know when he goes in, the game is over. He has size and arm talent, but I think he's a good No. 3 who has some developmental upside. ... You have to take some lumps with [Smith]. He's a second-rounder, not a top-10 guy. Get the ball out of his hand, give him easy reads and throws. Run the ball and run it some more. Let him manage the game and not be the difference maker."
Easier said than done, as the Jets are finding out. Ryan is in a tough spot. He needs wins to save his job, but he's stuck with a limited quarterback situation -- one he helped create.
2. This makes no sense: QB David Garrard is on the team for one reason only -- to serve as a mentor to Smith. Garrard is a good and willing teacher, but his arrival has coincided with Smith's downturn. In the five games before Garrard's arrival, Smith was 3-2 with a respectable passer rating of 80. In five games with Garrard at his side, Smith is 2-3 with an atrocious 48 rating. It's probably coincidence, but it's weird, no?
3. Back-to-back QBs?: This question has been coming up a lot lately: If the Jets aren't happy with Smith, could they pick another quarterback in the next draft? It wouldn't be unprecedented for a team to use two high picks on a quarterback in consecutive drafts. The last time it happened was 2010-11, when the Carolina Panthers picked Jimmy Clausen in the second round (No. 48 overall) and Cam Newton in the first (No. 1 overall), respectively. Clausen went 1-9 as a rookie, so Newton was a no-brainer. It would be different for the Jets, who probably will be picking in the middle of the first round. By then, the franchise-type quarterbacks will be gone, complicating the decision. If Smith doesn't make dramatic improvement over the final six games, the Jets have to be in the quarterback market.
4. Rex's tough love: Ryan has come down hard on WR Stephen Hill in recent days, basically calling him a disappointment. It's not like Ryan to criticize a player publicly, but I think this is an attempt by the coach to motivate the former second-round pick. Ryan threatened to cut Hill's playing time, but coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said he expects Hill to play his usual amount of snaps -- the 'ol good cop-bad cop routine. If this is, in fact, a motivational ploy, it doesn't reflect well on Hill's desire.
5. Jimmy & Mo: With the 30th pick in the 2011 draft, the Jets were prepared to pick CB Jimmy Smith, according to a league source. It would've been a controversial pick because of his off-the-field issues. They never got the chance because the Baltimore Ravens chose him with the 27th pick. The Jets gladly settled for DE Muhammad Wilkerson, which hasn't worked out too badly. I'd say the Jets got the better of the deal, but Smith has narrowed the gap. He's arguably the most improved player on the Ravens. Over the past five games, he has allowed only 12 completions (23 targets) for 131 yards and no touchdowns, according to ProFootballFocus.com.
6. The "Butt Fumble" jinx: Friday was the one-year anniversary of perhaps the most infamous play in Jets history -- the Butt Fumble. It's interesting to look back at what has happened to the players directly involved in the play: They're all recovering from surgery, except one -- RG Brandon Moore, who is retired.
Quarterback Mark Sanchez is out for the season after shoulder surgery. Ditto, FB Lex Hilliard, who was supposed to get the handoff on the aborted play. New England Patriots DT Vince Wilfork, who was rushing against Moore, tore his Achilles' tendon in late September and underwent season-ending surgery. Safety Steve Gregory, who recovered the fumble and returned it for a touchdown, is recovering from thumb surgery; he may return to the lineup Sunday night against the Denver Broncos. Moore, whose rear end became the most talked about body part in the NFL, was the lucky one. He's out of football, his health intact.
7. From the Weird-Minutiae Dept.: The Jets have run 647 offensive plays, and only once have they used this particular lineup combination -- RB Alex Green, FB Tommy Bohanon and WRs Santonio Holmes, Jeremy Kerley and Hill, according to NFL stats. That one play resulted in the longest score of the season, Smith to Holmes for 69 yards. Maybe it's time to try it again.
8. Man on a mission: When the Jets signed David Nelson in Week 5, they got more than a wide receiver. Nelson has a Tim Tebow-like ambition to make an impact off the field. He and his brothers, Patrick and Daniel, are raising money to build a residential village for orphans in Haiti. Their plan is to house 100 orphans. If you'd like to read more about it, or would like to make a pledge, check out their website: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/house-the-vision.
9. Not an ordinary Joe: When will the Pro Football Hall of Fame finally recognize Joe Klecko? He was one of the premier defensive linemen in the 1980s, making the Pro Bowl at three different positions on the line -- nose tackle, tackle and end. But he's not even on the HOF radar. That's just wrong.
10. Geno's fashion statement: Stu Woo of the Wall Street Journal did a nice job of picking up on Smith's postgame dressing habits. Trying to project a positive image, Smith always wears a business suit to his postgame news conference. As soon as it's over, he changes into sweats and sneakers. Say this about the rookie: He does and says all the right things. He just needs to ... you know, play better.