Al Pereira/Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
Al Pereira/Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Vick? Geno? What Are the Jets Doing?

Signing Michael Vick in free agency was a head-scratching move for a team that spent a high draft pick on Geno Smith 10 months earlier. All signs point to a faux QB competition and a decision-making group simply trying not to get fired

By
Andy Benoit
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Some have lamented that, as one ProFootballTalk.com headline put it, “[Michael] Vick’s arrival in New York takes impatience with a young quarterback to a new level.” Rex Ryan might disagree. He recently told reporters, “Geno Smith, regardless of who’s here at quarterback or who the competition is, is going to be hard to beat out…. [Last year] he grew by leaps and bounds.”

Then why sign Vick for so much money? Teams generally don’t give $4 million to backups.

Most likely, the Jets will talk about a quarterback competition over the next few months, feign one in training camp and then name Vick the starter sometime around the third preseason game. Smith, the 39th overall pick and 16-game starter in 2013, will be on the bench. (And, given Vick’s track record with injuries, he’s sure to come off it.)

The Jets would not even have looked into signing Vick if they didn’t harbor genuine discomfort about Smith. The question is, What’s driving that discomfort?

Keep in mind, nobody knows Smith’s abilities better than Rex Ryan, offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg and, by extension, general manager John Idzik. Last year they saw the same wild inconsistency from him that everyone else saw. At times, Smith would display admirable pocket poise, arm strength, athleticism and an encouraging ability to process the basic principles of play designs in order to execute downfield. But like a lot of rookies, he could not immediately take the next step, which is to process the play design in conjunction with reading the defense. So he’d fall into valleys of struggles, evidenced most plainly by his barrages of turnovers (25 on the season).

What Ryan, Mornhinweg and Idzik know that outsiders don’t is why Smith wasn’t taking the next step. Ryan has lauded the 23-year-old’s progress as a rookie, but in reality, Ryan and Mornhinweg took things off Smith’s plate as last season wore on. The Jets became more of a run-based offense, relying less on their deep-dropping, progression-read passes.

Under Rex Ryan's tutelage, Geno Smith started all 16 games in an 8-8 rookie campaign. (Ron Antonelli/Getty Images)
Under Rex Ryan’s tutelage, Geno Smith started all 16 games in an 8-8 rookie campaign. (Ron Antonelli/Getty Images)

Perhaps some of this was due to the decrepitude of a so-so receiving corps that, really, was unsettled all season. (Jeremy Kerley missed four games, Santonio Holmes missed five and tight end Kellen Winslow was suspended for four.) But undoubtedly, some of it was due to the coaches trying to work around Smith’s shortcomings. At one point, remember, there was even consideration regarding playing Matt Simms.

And then there’s the possibility that the Vick signing is a product of the coaches and front office strengthening their own illusion of job security. Woody Johnson has evolved into a meddling owner (his prerogative). That’s the biggest reason why handfuls of candidates turned down the Jets GM job before Idzik was finally hired. In January, Ryan (and by extension, his coaching staff) got a new contract, but according to the New York Daily News, it is only guaranteed through 2015. Ryan is still a coach on thin ice.

When the front office has an owner constantly peering over its shoulders and the coaching staff has job security in name only—and both are working with a roster that’s weak at wide receiver, tight end, outside linebacker, cornerback and safety—the objective is to simply not get fired. That means doing whatever it takes to go 8-8. This is purely human nature and, arguably, still congruent with the most common objective in pro football: to win right now. Callow, mistake-prone quarterbacks are anathema to jittery leaders who can’t afford to cast their eyes on the future.

The Jets feel that Vick gives them a better chance to win now. Athletically, he’s not as explosive as he was in his MVP-caliber 2010 season with the Eagles, but he’s still a huge threat. But Vick isn’t as big as Smith, and while a more accurate passer than Smith at this point, he remains scattershot. Still, having played for Mornhinweg in Philly, Vick has a sharper understanding of the West Coast-oriented system that New York wants to run. That makes Vick a less stressful option to a stressed leadership staff.

In an indirect way, Vick was signed for his field-reading skills and game-management ability. Those, of course, have always been his weaknesses. Vick is a sandlot player whose weaknesses get masked by his still-extraordinary playmaking prowess. When unmasked, you see the inconsistent ball placement, impatience and propensity for injury when trying to make something happen.

Michael Vick and Marty Mornhinweg previously worked together in Philly. (Bill Kostroun/AP)
Michael Vick and Marty Mornhinweg previously worked together in Philly. (Bill Kostroun/AP)

Typically, Vick’s style can’t simply be plugged into a system. It creates less structure, which is hard to build offense around. To most teams, this significantly compromises his value as a backup or bridge starter.

Not surprisingly, the open market left Vick unsigned for a week and a half. In contrast, it took only 24 hours for Josh McCown, the other unsigned mid-30s quarterback who straddles the line between backup and starter, to get a two-year deal with Tampa Bay. Physically, McCown is less gifted than Vick, but he can create or maintain structure for an offense as a traditional dropback, multi-read passer with improvisational skills that are used but not relied on.

Mornhinweg learned to embrace Vick’s lack of structure in Philadelphia, and presumably he’s decided he can live with it in New York. (It helps that his other option, Smith, presents even less structure.)

Still, this change illuminates alarming problems in the Jets organization. Either the front office and coaches believe they missed badly on their 2013 early second-round pick, or they feel compelled to go with a safer but inconsistent veteran who offers no long-term dividends because owner Woody Johnson can’t see past January 2015. (Not that Vick makes the team a serious contender for the playoffs.)

Vick will be unsigned in 2015. Most likely, the Jets will wind up conducting another quarterback competition—like the one they’re having this year and the one they had last year. If Ryan and his staff are still around, they’ll be dealing with an even hotter seat. And so their focus will affix even more on winning right away with a QB-less club that isn’t built to win right away.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is how a franchise roots itself in mediocrity.

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100 comments
ChuckLaMark
ChuckLaMark

Above and beyond all Michael Vick is a scumbag canine killer who was never charged for any of the many crimes he committed to his dogs of his illegal dog fighting business.   HE DIDN"T SERVE HIS TIME!


Jetlife420
Jetlife420

This is ridiculous. Sanchez was just signed by the Eagles for $4 million, do you think that's really going to be a QB controversy? In fact, every good backup veteran QB is getting paid at least $4 mil, so that argument is null. Vick seemed to be a great teammate last year when Foles stayed the starter, so even if he doesn't win the QB comp I don't see that as a controversy either. What's left? The number dilemma is solved, he's changing his number in respect.There aren't any controversies left. The fact is they brought in great competition that could become a good starter or a great back up. He also has experience in the system and can teach or help Geno with a few things.

scola071
scola071

Geno should have rode the bench last year.  Rex and co know that.  Rodgers, Young, Culpepper, Palmer all rode the bench at one point in their careers and it paid off for them when they got a chance to start.  Smith can do what he needed to do last year: sit, watch, and learn.  Geno will still play (probably half the games with Vick's fragility) and develop this year without the pressure he dealt with last year.  In this case, a step back means two steps forward.

bubbanomers
bubbanomers

Here's a crazy thought - the Jets don't believe Geno is even close to the answer as evidenced by his horrible stretches last year. The draft is deep with QB's that won't go in the Top 10, but some - Manziel, Bortles - have first round talent. Is it crazy to think the Jets go QB1 with someone such as Manziel if he's sitting there at 18, cut ties with Geno (no cap hit, bad second round pick, but c'mon, the Pats release their second round pick every other year) and name Vick the starter for 14 with the idea that Manziel sits for a year and learns (which is still the best way to develop). Jets have 12 picks and a track record of doing reasonably well in the draft, so filling some holes later is not going to be that hard. Team was 8-8 with an awful QB, no WR's, and a terrible secondary. Plug in Vick, add Decker and another WR, replace Cro with a bag of hammers (he was awful last year) and 8-8 can be 9-7. And in 2015, you embark on the Manziel era, which at the very least will be good for the back page.

Dan_in_RI
Dan_in_RI

Typical anti-Jets hatchet job. Geno Smith won 8 games last year with a team that many experts thought would win somewhere between 2 and 4. So the Jets effectively traded Mark Sanchez for Michael Vick this off-season, and suddenly the story is that the Jets have given up on Geno Smith. Anybody with any objectivity would conclude, instead, that the Jets are still not sure exactly what they have with Geno--is he the QB who looked impressive winning 3 out of the last 4 games of the season, with a very nice TD to turnover ratio (7 to 2) during that stretch, or is he the guy who looked absolutely clueless during a 3 game losing streak just before that? Uncertainty does not mean "giving up" on someone. The Jets absolutely would prefer that Geno establishes himself as an established starter and grows into a star. But, unfortunately, the jury is still out on whether he will do that. 


I believe that a major part of the problem last year was the absolute dearth of talent at the WR and TE positions. The Jets most reliable receiver, by far, was Jeremy Kerley, who is a nice possession receiver, but not a star. Still, in the 12 games he played last year the Jets went 8-4, and Smith seemed like a much better & more confident QB. Give him some talent to work with, and I think he will be a much better QB.

djpath
djpath

Michael Vick is a sick, psychopathic piece of crap that did time but does not deserve forgiveness.  I'm a life long Jet fan that will watch every game this year and root against Vick like I have with every other team he has played on.

Bahia
Bahia

Jets have a big QB problem, but even a bigger offense problem when it comes to the supporting cast.

Ste
Ste

That what you get when they're resign Rex Ryen, a yappy legend known for putting foot in his own mouth..

Tarynfor12
Tarynfor12

SMH...giving $5 mill to Vick this season as either the starter or backup still only ensures one thing....Jets will still need a QB in 15 via the draft or another stupid signing leaving them yet again on the waters of mediocrity without the main oar to get them moving.

Alligatorarms
Alligatorarms

Stop over analyzing every team has a backup QB; this is an improvement over Sanchez. Hopefully Vick will push Smith & mentor him as in be friends it can only help.

joebell33
joebell33


This piece is exemplary of the media cottage industry surrounding the Jets, one that generates hits and ratings by  casting doubt on the motive, intent and psyche of the front office. I would wager that more than half of Mike Francesa's NY radio audience is composed of reactive Jet fans, waiting to argue with him about his latest criticism. New York's the biggest media market in the nation and a negative article about the Jets will garner more reaction than a positive one about the Giants. So it goes. 


AnaverageMan
AnaverageMan

Take the best QB on the market to fill a QB spot on your roster of weak QB's.  I'm sure in some parallel universe that doesn't make sense.  Someone always trying to perpetuate the image of a circus using nothing but illusion and misdirection.

MattSchwartz
MattSchwartz

I KNOW RIGHT!? Why sign the best qb on the market, following a year where you got some of the worst qb play in the NFL, from your SECOND round pick? Why sign a guy who could backup and mentor your "high draft pick qb"? What a lazy article that's just begging for page views by trying to keep the "LOL JETS CIRCUS GUIZE!!!11"

JPSmall
JPSmall

Ah, duh! Every team needs a quality back up. In this case it's obvious that they may want their back up, whether it be Vick or Smith, to actually play. Dumb article prefaced on a stupid premise.

ken.burnside
ken.burnside

What I predict is that Geno gets traded for a fourth round pick at the start of the 2015 season.


I think he'd make a good developmental QB for Seattle or San Francisco.

Sharnan Barreauny
Sharnan Barreauny

what jets doing geno smith just came they not even giving him a chance

giesser
giesser

The bottom line here is vick should not be in professional football making millions ,,, he blew it ,, no one to blame but himself . and Roger Goodell for lettting him back in the nfl !

Redskins
Redskins

What Are the Jets Doing?

Only God knows, and He is not a Jets fan! 

Taurus97
Taurus97

The Jets sure had their QB dramas the last five years and some has been self-inflicted.  In 2008 we had the Brett Farve indecision which kept team management at bay for a while.  Then they give up a first and second rounder for Mark Sanchez (#5 overall).  When he was struggling they decide to use a fourth and a sixth to get Tim Tebow so he can hold a clipboard. They draft Geno Smith last year and throw him right in the fire.  I guess an 8-8 record not being satisfactory for a rookie QB the get Michael Vick for five million.  The sports talk stations in the Big Apple must be having a field day with this.

Ocean_State_Patriots_Fan
Ocean_State_Patriots_Fan

Let’s not prejudge Geno Smith based on one season.Granted, his 21-INT performance during his rookie season was less than stellar, to put it diplomatically.But so was Peyton Manning’s league-leading 28 INTs in 1998, his rookie season.No, I’m not suggesting that Geno may become Peyton 2.0.But if the Jets implement a run-heavy offense and limit Smith’s throws, then that should give him more time to develop.

Reggielegendary
Reggielegendary

Hard to argue with this article. I know we needed a quality backup but I didn't like signing Vick. That's TOO much quality and TOO much of a name. I didn't like the drafting of Geno but since he was picked, get him some help and eliminate the no weapons excuse. Your QB is only as good as the guys catching and running the ball. Brady and Matt Ryan looked avg last year without quality WRs.

AC32
AC32

Andy, it's good business to collect quality quarterbacks.  If the Jets signed some also-ran to back up Geno and Geno wound up failing, your in-season article would be about how the jets didn't sign a qb as insurance.


NWBill
NWBill

I am SO glad Buffalo picked EJ Manuel over Gino - and I felt bad for Jets fans when they did. Smith has some talent, but he's too inconsistent and a poor enough game manager at this stage that he can't really be trusted with a full offense- especially the one the Jets run. So, you had what happened last year. Rookie QBs who throw as many INTs as Smith did last year are hard to get back on their feet mentally. Marty's got his work cut out for him, and it's not a given that Smith will ever "get it" in order to take that team far into the playoffs. Vick is everything this column says he is - and I think the most telling fact about his signing by the Jets is that it's only for one year. When a Josh McCown gets two years, and Vick gets one - that kinda sets that table pretty clearly. I expect the Jets to throw themselves another monkey wrench and try to engineer a trade to get either Manziel or Teddy Bridgewater; Bortles will be gone by the time they draft, unless they come up with a blockbuster trade for the Texans. They might even try to get the Bills' pick at #9 - and, if a good OT isn't there by the time Buffalo's on the clock, that may well happen. I hope not, though, because Buffalo has no reason to make that kind of trade.


Anyway, I think the Jets will miss the playoffs, Vick will start but be injured at some point, Smith will continue to be inconsistent when he does play ....and the Jets will be looking for a new coach next year.

bigO
bigO

There are going to be a few surprises if the Jets make it to the playoffs. And you know what with Vick it just might happen.

garyo
garyo

Putting a rookie in the position the Jets did last year was poor at best and what amazes me are the number of so called Jets fans that lay the blame at Smith's door step. I think if Smith were put on the market right now he would be gone in no time.

wudai9
wudai9

this article is not only incoherent it is unsupported by evidence. Woody's meddling is the reason GMs didn't take the job? who says? Working around Geno's struggles is evidence of poor coaching? wrong! the poor coaching happened early in the year when they expected Geno to be more successful as a rookie with terrible receivers than any qb not named Brady or Luck has ever been.

More important: Vick is a perfectly reasonable choice here, a veteran qb who provides the realistic possibility that he might play while Geno sits; a qb who could take over and do a decent job for a team that would like to make the playoffs but still won't blow the future on a long-shot this year.

i feel like the Jets have finally started to make confident decisions -- modest spending on strategic needs in free agency, good drafting, cutting obvious deadwood while not bringing in new deadwood, not going for quick fixes -- that marks a mature approach to management. Mike Tannenbaum was the guy who felt the need to go for it to save his job. Rex and Idzik are not demonstrating that is how the are acting. 

Scottakruh
Scottakruh

There was a three game stretch (well, he was benched at halftime of one game) where we were having alot of difficulty getting a first down..it was excrutianting...also, we have lots of cap room and signed a decent wr..Kerley is a strong slot, and HOPEFULLY Steven Hill gets it together....we needed a good backup..is $4 million too much?  I'll let you known in 10 months...as of today, I like the move

John4
John4

@bubbanomers  All true except for the Manziel at 18 part.  At 18 the Jets are looking at Carr, possibly Metzenberger.  

John4
John4

@Tarynfor12  Taryn - hence this article and especially, the last sentence.

Frank Roberts
Frank Roberts

@Tarynfor12  They would need one either way.  What were the alternatives?  Josh McCown?  Matt Schaub?  Please.  Reality is their future QB is probably not on the roster, with Vick or any FAs this offseason.  Geno was overwhelmed in 2013.  He still has a chance to come around if he can hold a clipboard and learn as the team builds around him - but they need a competent veteran to help that happen.  And they should also draft another QB if they can. This is exactly what Philly had with Foles, Barkley behind Vick.... and look at them now.

Frank Roberts
Frank Roberts

@Alligatorarms  Well said.  Vick > Sanchez in a lot of ways.  And for half the price and only one committed year.  If Geno is ever going to be the guy, Vick will help, Sanchez would not have.  Jets will look to draft a QB and Vick will help Geno/hold the fort until it's either Geno or QB X in 2015.

John4
John4

@joebell33  I thank God daily that I don't live in New York.  What a dreary place. 

John4
John4

@Redskins  I doubt even God knows what the Jets are doing, and I know God doesn't have a favorite team.

Reggielegendary
Reggielegendary

@AC32 I think they should've went after McCown or Cassell or even Josh Freeman. Quality guys but not big names. Less drama.

MidAtlanticJet
MidAtlanticJet

@NWBill I'm so glad the Jets picked Smith over the oft injured Manuel. Manuel will never lead the Bills anywhere except out of Buffalo where they won't be playing in a few years.

Scottakruh
Scottakruh

@wudai9  It was widely reported GM candidates were incomfortable with the position because the owner demanded they keep Rex for at least another year...btw I'm a Jets fan

DanaBunner
DanaBunner

@Scottakruh You are correct, the Jets needed a good backup.  Too bad you didn't get one.

drmuon
drmuon

@Frank Roberts @Alligatorarms  Big difference..  Vick wants to be a starter and can be over Geno.  Sanchez is not anymore.  It's taking away the confidence in your young QB.  Bad move.

garyo
garyo

Wally, ashamed you know nothing about football, maybe they have a badminton section you could excel at.

Reggielegendary
Reggielegendary

@Scottakruh @wudai9Keeping Rex was smart. He's a very good coach. The players play hard for him. Get Geno some weapons and then we can make a decision on him.

Scottakruh
Scottakruh

@DanaBunner @Scottakruh  You are a child...Vick has a plus arm with slightly below average accuracy..if..IF..he stays healthy and doesn't put it on the ground, he can win

John4
John4

@garyo  Badminton section.  That's original.  Also YOU'RE probably right.  Wally's comment was lacking in common sense and intelligence.  He advertises his stupidity.

wudai9
wudai9

@Reggielegendary @Scottakruh @wudai9  right - fully understand that GMs didn't take the job because of the Rex requirement -- but there's no evidence that Woody is Steinbrenner-esque in any other way. And keeping Rex was the right call given the other non-luminaries who have been hired this year. 

EdwardKirby
EdwardKirby

@DanaBunner @Scottakruh

A mobile QB like Vick (remember that he is the NFL's all-time leader in rushing yardage by a QB) may just be what a team with a strong defense and a good running attack like the Jets are looking for. Forget the Wildcat nonsense, and just have Vick handle it.

Remember that they were trying to get Smith to run the ball more last year. Vick can show him how its done.

What I object to is the focus on the West Coast Offense. They really need to return to the ground-and-pound they had going when they had Thomas Jones as the RB. Shawn Greene never did cut it as his replacement, and now its RB-by-committee.

So if the Jets are going to make a trade with the Eagles, they should forget about DeSean Jackson and instead, go for guard Evan Mathis, who I read is also on the trading block. A good defense combined with a strong O-line is their best bet at this point.

DanaBunner
DanaBunner

@Scottakruh @DanaBunnerYou are dreaming.  Vick is well below NFL normal accuracy.  His career completion pct is just 56%, his career QB rating is just 80.9.  That QB rating would normally place one at about 24th best in the NFL.  Out of 39 active QBs with sufficient pass attempts to qualify, he is 36th in completion percentage.  Just ahead of Rex Grossman and Mark Sanchez.   Ha!  *IF* he stays healthy.  *IF* he can roll back the clock 4 years.  *IF* he can stop turning the ball over.  *IF* he can get more accurate.  Then MAYBE he will win some games.

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