BOCA RATON, Fla. -- One day after owner Woody Johnson issued a public plea for unsigned quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to "come back to the Jets," coach Todd Bowles took the pragmatic approach, claiming Tuesday the team won't miss a beat if Fitzpatrick signs elsewhere.
Bowles expressed confidence in his contingency plans, heaping praise on starter-turned-backup Geno Smith, whom he believes gained maturity after having his jaw broken by a teammate last summer. Bowles said Smith is one of the fallback options; he declined to specify the others.
The coach's message: He's not sweating the stalemate with Fitzpatrick.
"We're working through it," Bowles said at the NFL owners meetings. "It'll work out for the best. I feel pretty good about it. Obviously, we're going to try to sign Fitz back, but we have plans in place just in case it doesn't happen."
The organization has set an internal deadline, but "we're not close to that," according to Bowles. He said it's so early in the offseason that "everybody has a right to be stubborn."
Aside from Smith, who lost the job when he was punched out by then-teammate IK Enemkpali, the Jets might consider free agent Robert Griffin III. They met with the former Washington Redskins star, but their interest seems tepid at this point.
The defensive-minded Bowles, who played for Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs, noted that his old coach won three Super Bowls with three different quarterbacks.
"You learn from that standpoint," Bowles said. "You want everything to work out fine [with Fitzpatrick], but if it doesn't work out fine, you better have Plans B, C and D. And you still have to win with those plans."
The Jets and Fitzpatrick remain far apart in negotiations. The team has maintained that re-signing him is their primary focus at quarterback. Fitzpatrick galvanized the offense in the aftermath of the Smith-Enemkpali altercation, setting a team record with 31 touchdown passes.
But that means nothing now, according to Bowles.
"You're back at square one even if you have the same quarterback," he said. "You have to rebuild your chemistry every year."
In a one-hour sit-down with reporters at the AFC coaches breakfast, Bowles used the forum to laud Smith, who served as Fitzpatrick's backup after starting in 2013 and 2014.
"We thought Geno matured last year," Bowles said. "It's something you couldn't see because he didn't play as much, but you saw it in practice and you saw it in his demeanor in off-the-field stuff. Geno is still our quarterback, he's still on our team.
"You learn from your mistakes," he continued. "He went on and learned a valuable lesson. He was mature and he applied himself and he moved on from it, which was big. It was big to see that from him. That could destroy your team after going through something like that, but he's a team player. ... I respect him for that."
From all indications, Smith was sucker-punched by Enemkpali. Bowles retracted his use of the word "mistake," adding: "For me, I would treat it as a mistake just from where I grew up. I'm not saying that was a mistake. Maybe 'mistake' was a bad word. It was an experience, and you learn from experiences."
The Jets are in a delicate situation. They don't want to overpay Fitzpatrick -- they're offering more than $7 million per year, sources said -- but they also recognize he's a popular team leader. Outspoken wide receiver Brandon Marshall has lobbied for the team to re-sign Fitzpatrick.
"My son wants certain things, too, that his dad says no to," Bowles said, laughing. "It really doesn't matter. I love Brandon to death and he's a good player ... [but] he doesn't make any decisions for this team."