For a while, it seemed as if the New York Jets were going to begin offseason training without having to discuss their quarterback situation extensively. The recently signed Michael Vick has already conceded the starting job to second-year Geno Smith, pledging to be a mentor to the fledgling pro passer. Then Joe Namath decided to chime in Tuesday night. Via ESPN:
"If Mike's healthy, I think he's the better player at this point," Namath said. "Now, Geno's got some talent, no doubt, but we've obviously seen Michael and what he can do. To have some knowledge of [Marty Mornhinweg's] offense, I think that's an advantage, too, for Michael to make the transition. It's a matter of how sound he is."
Namath was speaking at the United Way's Gridiron Gala in Manhattan, which has been held annually for 21 years to benefit at-risk youth in New York City. The event has also functioned as Namath's sounding board in recent years. In 2012, he took a stance on the Sanchez/Tebow debate (on the correct side, at least), and in 2013 he criticized the Jets' selection of Smith, suggesting it was a wasted pick.
"They needed the other positions filled," Namath said. "Possibly offensive line. They got some defensive line. The safeties are still questionable. The outside linebackers are still questionable."
In fairness to Namath, his 2013 comments weren't meant to disparage Smith, who he described as a "sensational athlete" with "good size." The Jets legend was more so throwing his support behind Mark Sanchez, who is now a backup for the Philadelphia Eagles after five seasons of middling success with the Jets compounded by a season-ending shoulder injury in 2013.
The injury ushered in the Smith era, which was rocky in Year 1, but dotted with pockets of success. As a rookie, Smith completed 55.8 percent of his passes at 6.88 yards per attempt, giving him 3,046 yards and 12 touchdowns passing to 21 interceptions. He threw four touchdowns to two interceptions over the final four games of the season, however, to help the Jets go 3-1 over that stretch and finish the season near playoff contention at 8-8 overall.
Vick agreed to sign with the Jets apparently with an understanding that he is to help Smith's development and occupy a backup spot on the depth chart. He had success under current Jets offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg when both men were with the Eagles from 2009 through 2012, most notably in 2010 when Vick had a renaissance, passing for 3,018 yards in 12 games and throwing 21 touchdown passes to six interceptions.
But the Jets have seemingly staked their fates on Smith, who was worth an early second-round pick to the franchise a little more than one year ago. As a result, the Jets could enter 2014 training camp with a semblance of stability at quarterback for the first time since 2011, as long as more reactions like Namath's don't crop up in the mean time. A little less controversy could serve them well.