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Wednesday, June 12, 2013
Updated: June 13, 1:10 PM ET
QBs getting frosty in Florham Park?

By Rich Cimini
ESPNNewYork.com

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Tim Tebow is gone, off to worship in the Church of Belichick, but there's still plenty of intrigue with the New York Jets' quarterback situation. Some of it is unnecessary.

A ridiculous mini-controversy arose Wednesday when rookie Geno Smith offered a "no comment" when asked if he's planning to attend Mark Sanchez's annual "Jets West," a players-only passing camp at his old high school in Mission Viejo, Calf. Basically, it's a few days of team bonding before training camp, open to all skill-position players.

Smith was asked why he wouldn't comment.

"I'd rather not comment on that," he said.

Were you invited?

"No comment."

Sanchez, too, declined to elaborate, except to say, "Everybody has always been invited." Heck, even Tebow attended last year.

Only the Jets could add another layer of controversy to a quarterback controversy. Of course, we're talking about a team that can spark a brush fire in a rain storm.

Maybe there's a logical explanation for Smith's nonanswers, but he created a perception that he and Sanchez have developed some frost between them.

They don't have to be best buddies -- after all, they're competing for the same job -- but a cordial, professional relationship isn't an unreasonable expectation. Even Sanchez and Tebow managed that.

Smith is young, so he's bound to make mistakes on and off the field, but he needs to maintain a mature approach. If not, the pre- and post-draft criticisms -- diva, spoiled brat, etc. -- will come rushing back.

Mark Sanchez
It'll be Mark Sanchez starting for the Jets in Week 1, unless rookie Geno Smith is lights-out in the preseason.

Even though they'd love a fresh start at quarterback, the Jets won't hand the starting job to Smith. Right now, he's behind Sanchez. No one has said that publicly, but it's not hard to read between the lines. Unless Smith is lights-out in the preseason, it'll be Sanchez in Week 1.

Quarterbacks coach David Lee, addressing the media for the first time, was refreshingly candid Wednesday when discussing Smith and Sanchez. Lee didn't sugarcoat anything, saying Smith has been struggling the last couple of weeks.

"We'll know when he's ready," Lee said. "He's not ready right now."

The regular season doesn't start for three months, so Smith has time. But it may not be enough time. Unlike last year's rookie sensations, Smith wasn't groomed in an NFL-style offense. Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson both played in West Coast systems in college, making for an easier transition.

"Geno hasn't had that luxury," Lee said. "It has been a brand-new world every day, just struggling with the basic things -- snap count at the line of scrimmage and his delivery in the huddle can be more consistent. Little things are really what's killing him."

His footwork is spotty, he doesn't always find his "hot" reads, and "he's killing my center, Nick Mangold, with the inconsistency," Lee said. Smith played well in the first three OTA practices, but his play started to "deteriorate" (Lee's word) when the coaches inundated the quarterbacks with new plays.

But Lee sees raw potential. The hope is that when Smith has a chance in training camp to relearn the material, it'll come quicker.

"When his footwork is good, success follows him like no quarterback I've ever coached," Lee said.

Rex Ryan admitted that, if Sanchez wins the starting job, he might use Smith in a specialized role -- read-option plays. It would be like the Tebow role from last season, except they'd actually use Smith, presumably.

It's not a bad idea. You start the season with Sanchez, working Smith into the game plan with plays that could maximize his athleticism. Smith is no Colin Kaepernick in terms of speed, as Lee noted, but he'd be better than the overweight Tebow was last year.

As for Sanchez, he hasn't grabbed the job by the throat. Actually, it's somewhat alarming that he hasn't gained early separation against a rookie, but at least he can get the offense lined up.

Right now, the competition is too close to call -- at least that's the company line.

"We'll know when we know," Lee said. "Right now, we don't know."

We know this for certain: It won't be dull.