But for the first four games of the 2014 NFL season, Smith at times has looked like a potential franchise quarterback but for the most part has been inconsistent with his play. According to ESPN.com Smith currently is ranked 31st among 33 eligible quarterbacks in quarterback rating (QBR). The quarterbacks behind Smith are Chad Henne who was benched for highly touted rookie Blake Bortles and fellow second year quarterback E.J. Manuel who was benched for journeyman Kyle Orton.
With the Jets at 1-3 and with the season potentially slipping away due to the Jets difficult schedule over the next three weeks, the question that has been posed is should the Jets replace Smith with Vick?
However, Ryan is still confident that Smith will improve as a quarterback.
“I believe in him.” Said Ryan after Sunday’s loss, “I know he’s a hard working guy. I think he has the tools to be really good. In my opinion, its not a question of if it’s going to happen but a question of when he will be that kind of guy.”
Smith currently tied for the NFL lead in interceptions with five compared to only four touchdown passes. The offense and particularly Smith struggled in Sunday’s loss to the Lions. Smith went 17-for-33 with only one touchdown pass and his fifth interception. The offense, after starting strong with a 14 play 71 yard drive which ended in a field goal, failed to get another first down until the 10:58 mark of the third quarter.
With the Jets offense struggling to move the ball, some frustrated fans at MetLife Stadium began chanting for Smith’s backup, veteran Michael Vick to relieve Smith. Smith let his own frustrations show after the game when he hurled an expletive at a jeering fan as he walked off the field.
With all of that said, it is still too early to bench Smith. Bringing in Vick would be a mistake for a number of reasons. Smith is only 20 games into his NFL career and he has shown the potential of being a successful starter in the NFL.
Take Smith’s 29-yard touchdown pass to Eric Decker against the Packers in week two. With an oncoming pass rush, Smith stepped up, absorbed the hit and delivered a perfect strike. He wouldn’t have made that pass last year.
Smith has also showed more poise in the pocket, been accurate with many of his reads and hasn’t played as bad as the statistics may appear.
While it is true that Smith has five interceptions, it can be argued that at least two of them weren’t his fault.
On his first interception of the year against Oakland, safety Charles Woodson made a heck of a play by jumping the route and making a diving pick. Against Green Bay, Smith hit as he threw by Packers defense end Mike Daniels who badly beat guard Brian Winters. Smith was targeting six-foot-seven inch tight end Zach Sudfeld who should have been able to make a play on the ball and knock it down. Instead Packers corner Tramond Williams who is eight inches shorter than Sudfeld came up with the ball.
While Smith seems to take all of the blame, it is not just him who is struggling on offense. The offensive line for the Jets has struggled in pass protection this year. Smith has been sacked ten times this year tying for tenth most in the NFL.
The poor offensive line play was evident in this past Sunday’s game and according to Ryan the poor play of the o-line was one of the reasons for the lack of offensive ball movement.
“We had four false starts this week.” Said, Ryan, “Those things don’t seem like much, but they back you up five yards and give you a total down and (in) distance in different situations. Case in point is the one right before the half. That was a back-breaker.”
The reason Smith has “only” been sacked ten times is that he is a mobile quarterback. At times he is able to evade the pass rush and make something out of nothing. Other times he is forced to hurry his throws, which lead to mistakes like the red zone interception on Monday Night Football against the Bears
Ryan also believes that if Smith is properly protected, he has the ability to be successful.
“He can do this.” Ryan said of Smith, “He can throw it with anybody. When he’s protected, he makes those throws. He hits open guys.”
Smith needs to take a sack in that situation but with the Jets trailing 24-13 at the time, he tried to make something out of nothing. There is no argument that Smith is not the greatest decision maker, but only a few quarterbacks not even 25 games into their career are.
The Jets did not do much in the offseason to upgrade their wide receiver position. Eric Decker has looked like a number one wide receiver when healthy but he injured his hamstring against Green Bay and was limited in both the Bears and to a lesser extent the Lions game.
Jeremy Kerley, who has impressed Ryan with his development, is primarily a slot receiver. The other Jets receivers are David Nelson, who just injured his ankle and preseason star Greg Salas who had a good game against the Lions with two catches for 60 yards.
Other than Kerley and Decker, no other wide receiver on the Jets has more than six catches. Smith has relied primarily on his tight ends Jeff Cumberland and Jace Amaro and running backs Chris Johnson and Chris Ivory for completions.
If you’re upset with the Jets lack of offensive production, look no further than the mysterious play calling of offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg. Mornhinweg isn’t as bad a play caller as his predecessor Tony Sparano but at times it is hard to understand what he is thinking.
The Jets on their first drive Sunday, gave Chris Ivory nine carries and he ran the ball to a tune of 51 yards, an average of over nine yards a carry. On the Jets next two series, Ivory didn’t get a single carry.
In week three against the Bears, Mornhinweg abandoned the running game and had Smith drop back an astounding 43 times. Smith responded by completing 26 of those passes but threw two costly interceptions including a pick-six.
If those arguments don’t persuade you not to bench Smith, this last one might. Again, Smith is only 20 games into his NFL career. You can’t give up on a second round pick who has shown signs of promise less than two years into his career.
Vick is an incredibly capable backup who was brought in to push Smith to improve not to usurp him as the starting quarterback. For the most part Smith has improved under Vicks tutelage. Vick however, is not the Vick of 2010 when he lit up the league. While he still has his speed and cannon of an arm,
With that said, Vick is only one player and he isn’t the Jets’ savior, he can’t fix the Jets holes at the secondary position or the offensive line. If you don’t believe me this is what Vick had to say after Sunday’s loss.
“I’m only one person.” Said Vick, “That doesn’t mean I’m going to come in and be the savior and save the game and things aren’t always going to go my way neither. Then you guys (the media) will be interviewing the next quarterback asking him if he’s ready (to play).”
Smith might not be the future of the Jets but it is too early to give up on a player with his potential. The Jets are built to compete with the better teams in the league now but are still a year or two away from being able to consistently beat those teams. And as long as Smith remains apart of the Jets’ plan, he should be their starting quarterback.Crazy Catch Video: Hooking A Bizarre Sawfish