Gailey merely stated the obvious yesterday, when he declared Smith the starting quarterback, but of course that didn’t stop everyone else from acting shocked with a little outrage sprinkled in from fans. Fans and even reporters were excited at the idea of an open quarterback competition but it was clear since even late last year that Smith would be the opening day starter for the Jets, not because Smith was so good but because he has a higher ceiling than any of the other available options.
Sure the Jets could force an open competition for the sake of having an open competition, and I won’t even say there wouldn’t be some sort of logic behind that thought process, but with the current structure of minicamps/training camp having an open competition really means under-preparing two quarterbacks. The more reps have to be split among the first-team the less prepared the eventual starter will be. There are only so many first-team reps to be had and you want your starting getting the vast majority of those reps.
With Smith being the more physically talented quarterback it makes sense that they would want to focus on him as the starter. Ryan Fitzpatrick is a perfect backup, he won’t need as many reps to be prepared to handle backup duty but if he is your Week One starter your season isn’t getting off to a good start anyway.
Instead of doing the typical article construction, taking bits and pieces of quotes to frame for the readers, I figured I’d just provide full and proper context by printing the transcript from the presser. In-between each set of questions and answers I’ll add a little bit of my own response.
Q: Will Ryan Fitzpatrick and Smith will have an equal opportunity to start?
A: Right now Geno’s the starter and to me, Coach Bowles has said it, I’ve said it, I think everybody has said it, that’s the way it sits and that’s the way we expect it to be. Unless something happens that you get an injury or something like that that you don’t foresee, that’s how we anticipate it going.
My response: Obviously when Gailey says “everybody has said it” he means everyone inside the building and is not including media and fans because people have been telling me Smith wouldn’t even be on the roster since last year. Also those people, including Todd Bowles, probably have said it, I have no reason to doubt Gailey, but again they must have said it within the walls of the Jets facilities because this is the first we’ve heard about it.
Q: Is the quarterback position is an open competition?
A: Not going in, no.
My response: Bowles and Mike Maccagnan never would have given us this direct an answer but clearly Gailey doesn’t have the time or patience to field questions on a pretend quarterback competition just to placate the media.
Q: Why is it not an open competition?
A: Because Geno is the starter.
My response: That’s some damn straight-forward logic right there. I like this guy (not because of who he named the starter but because he clearly has no interest in beating around the bush). Obviously fans and reporters would like a more detailed explanation but really that’s all that’s needed. Smith is the starter because they said he’s the starter, which translates to they think he’s the best quarterback on the roster.
Q: Why won’t it be an open competition?
A: (Geno has) done enough good, quality things (while) he’s been here and he’s done enough quality things that he deserves the opportunity to be the guy. We told Fitz coming in that’s the way it was going to be. We didn’t try to pull the wool over somebody’s eyes. That’s exactly how we told (it to) him.
My response: Fans will certainly debate the part about Smith doing enough “good, quality things,” I can already hear fans responding “he hasn’t done any good, quality things!” But the physically ability is there with Smith, he just has to nail the mental side of it and Gailey’s system should go along way to helping with that.
Q: Is there anyway, other than injury, that Smith can lose the starting job?
A: Just like anybody else in the NFL. If you don’t play well over a period of time you could. But not in preseason, not in practices.
My response: Again, strong logic. It’s really hard to dispute statements this direct and to the point. Feel free to disagree with him but he’s clearly stating they think Smith is the most talented quarterback on the roster.
Q: Will Smith start Week One?
A: Don’t make me say yes, but probably (laughs).
My response: Got to appreciate the effort from the media on this one as well as Gailey’s decision to take the bait.
Q: Does Smith have a higher ceiling than Fitzpatrick?
A: I think you see an awful lot of talent there and if we can get him to where he puts all that together, I don’t know how good he can be to be honest with you. I don’t know how good he can be. He can be pretty good though if he can get it all together and we can fit things that suit him the right way, because he is a very talented football player.
My response: I’ll say this again, Smith was not ready to start Week One of his rookie year, the transition from the Air-Raid offense he ran in college to any NFL system is such a big leap that no rookie should ever have to deal with immediately. The fact that Marty Mornhinweg tried to force him into the toughest system for a quarterback to run only made it that much worse. Gailey will run a much more quarterback friendly system and with all the weapons now at Smith’s disposal we will see if the mental aspect really is too much for him or if he can thrive with the upgrades around him.
Q: How much patience they will have with Smith?
A: I have a great deal of confidence and I keep confidence in the guys that are playing. If you ask for a timetable, I don’t know a timetable. Who knows a timetable? I expect great things. I don’t expect failure, I expect success. So, it doesn’t enter my mind about that kind of stuff. I don’t even think about that. And I don’t think any coach does. I think coaches anticipate the best. What kind of leaders would we be if we’re thinking doom and gloom? But you have to sit there and anticipate that the guy’s going to be very, very successful and that’s all I’m thinking about right now. I’m not thinking about anything else.
My response: Again Gailey is right. The reporter is basically asking Gailey to predict at what point Smith will have failed. This makes sense if you really believe Smith will fail but clearly Gailey and the Jets don’t agree. Gailey doesn’t have an answer because he doesn’t anticipate this question coming up during the season. If the question does come up that’s when they’ll start looking for answers.
Q: Was there ever a thought to having an open competition?
A: No. (It) wasn’t a thought.
My response: Gailey isn’t about to fall for that come back to a question that’s already been asked twice but had a few other questions in-between trick.
Q: Why not consider an open quarterback competition?
A: I think I answered that a few minutes ago but I’ll try again. I probably will say something different than I said a minute ago then you all can say I contradicted myself (laughter). We saw a lot of talent on film. We saw a lot of promise on film. We saw a lot of things that made us think that he could eventually be a pretty good quarterback. So, it’s hard to have quarterback competition going into the season. Once we decided that (Smith) was the guy that we felt could be the best option at this point for us, that’s the direction we went. I think it’s best if you do it that way.
Again this simply comes down to the fact that Gailey and the rest of the staff have decided Smith is the most talented quarterback on the roster, with the highest ceiling which, of course, will give the Jets the best chance to win. There is no way you declare there will be no competition unless you’re already convinced you know who the best quarterback is.
Fitzpatrick is perfectly suited for the backup role and he could even start and play well for a couple of weeks but he is limited in what he can do as a quarterback. Smith’s only limitations are mental, in reading NFL defenses and going through his progressions, and Gailey is clearly confident that within his system Smith will not have the same difficulties that he has had in the past.
People have been willing to write Smith off for a long time now but, even though Smith has brought a lot of the criticism on himself when it come to judging a quarterback, especially a young quarterback, there is so much more at play than just the quarterback.
Fans and reporters don’t often see it and they damn sure hate to acknowledge it, it’s always easier to think the fix is in changing one player or one position, but Gailey is simply caught in-between seeing the possible potential in Smith and recognizing the limitations in his other options. Forced to side with talent and potential Gailey wants to give Smith the best possible chance of fulfilling that potential and that starts by giving him the vast majority of the first-team reps throughout the offseason and declaring him that starter.