In a desperate move to save face in an ugly season, Rex Ryan -- stuck in a seven-game losing streak -- made the expected decision Monday, benching the struggling Geno Smith in favor of the 34-year-old Vick. He will start Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs and his former Philadelphia Eagles coach, Andy Reid.
After more than a year of Smith's maddening play, Ryan finally ran out of patience with the quarterback, who was pulled from Sunday's 43-23 loss to the Buffalo Bills after three interceptions in the first quarter. He finished with a 0.0 passer rating.
Ryan refused to say if the move is permanent, claiming he's concerned only about this week.
"This is not looking long term, this is about the immediate," Ryan said. "My focus is on Kansas City and finding a way to get a win. That's why this decision was made."
It was the second time in four weeks that Smith was benched in a game, but this marks the first time in his career he won't start. He was named the starter as a rookie and has compiled a 9-15 record, with 31 interceptions.
Smith, who was informed of the decision by Ryan after Monday's team meeting, expressed a range of emotions. Asked his initial reaction, he said, "There was none. I just went on with my day."
He went on to say he's frustrated and disappointed, but that he will support Vick, whom he considers a mentor. Displaying some bravado, Smith said "without a doubt" he still can become a franchise-caliber quarterback.
Smith's availability for Sunday's game is up in the air. He hurt his throwing shoulder on his final play, tackling safety Aaron Williams on the third interception return. Smith said he's experiencing "minor soreness."
Ryan downplayed the severity of the injury, saying he hopes Smith will be able to resume throwing by Wednesday. But Ryan also told practice-squad quarterback Matt Simms to be ready, just in case.
This was a dramatic if not stunning decision by the Jets because it raises serious questions about Smith's future. They drafted him in the second round in 2013 and were grooming him to be their long-term quarterback, but his development has stalled amid a flurry of turnovers.
"I don't think anybody in this organization is looking at him any differently," Ryan said, adding, "I don't think a bad outing like this will be a determination on anyone's long-term opinion about somebody. If it is, it's pretty naïve."
To prove his point, Ryan reached way back, mentioning the quintessential one-game aberration -- a 1998 preseason game in which Ryan Leaf outplayed fellow rookie Peyton Manning.
But with Smith, it wasn't a one-game trend. He has nine multiple-interception games in 24 starts.
Vick, who signed a one-year contract last offseason, isn't considered part of the Jets' future. He started six games last season for the Eagles before getting hurt and losing his job to Nick Foles.
"I think it's a great opportunity," said Vick, adding that he wishes it didn't have to be against Reid. "Any time you get named to be the starter, it's a great thing. I think you have to relish it, but also take it extremely serious, and understand what's at stake and what needs to be done."
General manager John Idzik, who drafted Smith, is a staunch supporter of the second-year quarterback. The decision to bench him indicates that he, too, has lost confidence in Smith or that he simply let Ryan make the call.
Idzik said Smith's three-interception stinker is "cause for concern, an eye opener."
The Jets (1-7) have dropped seven straight, and they're desperate for a spark.
Vick was hardly mistake-free against the Bills -- two lost fumbles and an interception -- but at least he rallied the offense to 23 points. Vick is widely respected in the Jets' locker room. Smith's support among teammates has waned.
In five-plus seasons at the Jets' coach, Ryan has benched his starting quarterback only twice. The previous occasion came in 2012, when he replaced the slumping Mark Sanchez with Greg McElroy, bypassing Tim Tebow.
"I feel right now this is the right move," said Ryan, repeating what he said in 2012 when he sacked Sanchez.