- Rich Cimini, ESPN Staff Writer
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One of the reasons I like Joe Namath's commentary is that, despite his obvious passion for the New York Jets, he's not afraid to tell it like it is even though fans may not want to hear it.
Namath's take on the current quarterback situation is particularly astute because he touches on an issue that could turn messy, depending on how things play out over the summer. And that issue is this: Right now, the best quarterback on the team (Michael Vick) is the underdog in the competition/non-competition (or whatever you want to call it). From all indications, it's Geno Smith's job to lose.
"Right now, they have two quarterbacks that they’re talking about and, given help, given great blocking and great defense, they can win with those two quarterbacks," Namath said Monday night on the NFL Network. "But, come on, there is no doubt who has the most experience and is probably the better quarterback now. But there is no doubt where the Jets are trying to go in the future. They want Geno to step up to be that man."
This could lead to problems if the same perception exists in late August. That's why Smith must emphatically state his case in the preseason; he must absolutely show he's the best man for the job. Most people think a "tie" would go to Smith, but he needs to do better than a tie. A tie wouldn't eliminate the questions. This is why I believe it should be a truly open competition, as I wrote recently.
From what I've seen and heard, Smith has outplayed Vick in OTA practices (most of which have been closed to the media), but as Namath noted, "You’ve got to go out there and prove that you’re better than the other guy, day in and day out, but especially in the games. OTAs, practice -- we all look sensational when no one is coming at us as quarterbacks for the most part." That's so true.
We'll continue to chronicle the quarterback situation through this week (the final open OTA is Wednesday) and through next week's mandatory minicamp (June 17-19). But things won't perk up until late July, when they report to training camp. That's when it'll get serious.
Who would Namath pick as his starter? He said he doesn't have enough information right now to express a strong opinion.
"Both quarterbacks physically have wonderful talent, good talent certainly," he said. "What goes on in the head? What goes on in the head in the course of a game when the heat is on you? How do they behave there? Can they take you to a championship? Do you expect both of these quarterbacks or one of them to be of championship-caliber? That remains to be seen. I don’t know."
When Namath says he doesn't know, it's telling.