by Paul West
As the New York Jets have gradually made a laughing stock of themselves the past few years, one of the central plotlines has been the revolving-door quarterback situation. This began with the rise and fall of Mark Sanchez, who went from promising medium-upside rookie to a player best known for his gaffes. While Sanchez certainly contributed to his demise, the Jets went a long way toward undermining him. They drafted high-profile throwing-challenged media magnet Tim Tebow, just to make Sanchez look over his shoulder. Then, instead of surrounding him with an arsenal (especially after the loss of Santonio Holmes and other key targets), they let their receiving corps shrivel up while the pressure on Sanchez increased. When Geno Smith was drafted, it turned out to be the final death knell of Sanchez’ career as a Jet; but then, returning to form, the Jets got another high-profile media magnet in Michael Vick to make Geno look over his shoulder. Geno has alternately shown his upside and looked baffled and overmatched in his time as the Jets’ quarterback. But part of the problem is that he’s spent much of his time running for his life due to poor line protection, while waiting for a mediocre-at-best receiving corps to get open.
With the off-season acquisition of former Bronco Eric Decker, the Jets finally showed a desire to give Geno something to work with. Still widely underrated as a top-level threat at wide receiver, Decker is a great route runner with good hands and reasonable speed. He’s also battled hamstring issues, and has dealt with frequent double-teams as opponents realize there’s nobody else to key on but him. Tight ends Jeff Cumberland and Jace Amaro have disappointed; the former has a nose for the end zone but little else, and the the latter has playmaking ability but seems unable to catch the easiest cookies thrown his way. And Jeremy Kerley remains Julian Edelman-lite, both widely underrated and oft-overrated as a tweener threat from the slot position. With the running game struggling, defenses can still key on one or two targets and greatly hamper the Jets’ attack.
With Harvin and Decker, Geo Smith will finally get a chance to prove himself. Kerley, recently signed to a four-year extension by the Jets, will become even more dangerous as a multidimensional threat now that defenses won’t be able to focus all their energies on him. And Harvin and Decker make a one-two punch that will give Geno multiple reads, playmaking versatility and the ability to capitalize on defensive uncertainty. Unlike Sanchez in his final two seasons, Geno Smith will no longer have to learn a new offense while throwing to cardboard cutouts with no pass protection. The offensive line is still dicey and somewhat decimated, but Smith will now have a more reasonably NFL-level array of weapons at his disposal.
All of this gives Geno Smith a chance to prove that he’s the quarterback of the Jets future. He’ll have multiple places to look and multiple options to try and isolate. This, and his mobility and increasingly good decision making, should make for glad tidings for fans of the Jets offense. Either way, now’s the time for Geno to show that he’s ready to take over the reins–and for the Jets to give him ample opportunity to do so.