I have defended Jets quarterback Geno Smith plenty over the last year and a half or so. I wasn't necessarily trying to "defend" him per se, but rather just offer some context to the situation he was facing every weekend. The main issue was he didn't have a lot of talent around him on offense, so it was going to be tough for him to succeed regardless. I still believe that as strongly today as I have in the past. However, I do not still believe that Smith should continue to be the starter this season, especially after paying closer attention to the team after he was benched last Sunday against the Bills.
I have several reasons for changing my mind. For one, it's apparent all of the pressure has been weighing heavily on Smith for awhile now. I didn't overreact to him cussing back at a fan who had cussed at him, but I did note to myself that it probably was a sign Smith was nearing his breaking point. Whether any or all criticism of him has been fair or not, it really doesn't matter.
As a former professional athlete, I can tell you we do hear all of those criticisms and most of them sting. When the sting starts lingering longer than usual and affecting the way you handle your business, something has to change. You can't have your starting quarterback playing with that kind of weight on his shoulders because it will likely lead him to making some very costly errors. And in Smith's case, it has.
That's where it appears Geno Smith is now, pressing all the time and trying to make big plays, but instead turning over the ball and killing his own team.
Secondly, I thought about the toll the circus has to be taking on his teammates. When I first got to the Buccaneers, our offense was hot garbage. For that reason, the defense always went into the game knowing we would have to go above and beyond to overcompensate for the offense if we wanted to win. Our defenses were damn good, but no defense is going to shut everybody down, especially with little to no help from the offense. Let me tell you, buddy, when you lose a few games where the defense was spectacular but the offense stunk up the joint, the word demoralized isn't strong enough to convey how low you feel after that. I imagine many Jets defenders were starting to go into games with that same mentality that getting a win was totally up to them, and even with a great performance they still might not get one.
That can definitely make the locker room atmosphere and chemistry rough for a team.
Third -- and maybe most important -- the Jets have a better than average option to replace Smith. Maybe it was just me, but I thought I saw a subtle shift in the offense as well as the defense's attitude after Vick came into the game. Guys seem to pick it up a bit and even get a little excited after making a play. I imagine it was pretty hard to be pumped up after your quarterback throws three interceptions in the first quarter. After Vick got going a little bit, I could see why defensive guys might have thought they still had a chance.
That's what Vick gives the Jets at this point -- a chance. I was thinking more about the long-term benefits of the franchise and Geno Smith when I felt like he should continue to start this season, even after a rough start.
In the short term, there is no doubt Vick gives the Jets the best chance to win. It's simple: he is a weapon unto himself. That's what you need at quarterback when your skill positions are lacking. Vick doesn't need even good protection because he can usually find a way to escape a collapsing pocket. If the receivers can't get open on third down, Vick still has the potential to run for it. Hell, if he needs to sit in the pocket and throw for 300 yards, he's also probably better equipped for that than Geno.
The only downside, of course, is that Vick is not going to be the long-term answer at quarterback for the Jets. Simply put, they're sacrificing Smith's development to win this season. Normally that would be a bad thing, but after seeing the way he came out spraying the ball around early in the game against the Bills, I think maybe some time off the hot seat would do Smith some good.
This move may not save Rex Ryan's job, but, at the very least, it will probably keep this team together for the rest of the season. As much as Vick may add a spark to the offense, the most important thing he adds to the team overall is hope. Now that the Jets have hope again, there is no telling how much better they will perform.