The New York Jets quarterback battle has been one of the more interesting story lines of the NFL so far this year, and with opening weekend fast approaching, appears no closer to reaching its conclusion. Geno Smith looks to be in the driver’s seat in terms of starting against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, however we don’t know if Mark Sanchez will take over when healthy.
Gang Green desperately wanted to find a quarterback to replace the Sanchize after his dismal 2012. Drafting Geno Smith was supposed to solve their quarterback woes and silence the grumbling from fans that followed each and every Sanchez turnover. Sanchez was supposed to become a headband wearing backup with a huge contract he didn’t deserve. The contract was given to him, as many would tell you, as an apology by the Jets organization for looking into acquiring Peyton Manning two years ago.
This is where things get tricky. Sanchez has looked to be a far superior quarterback than Smith in the preseason. Uh-oh, now it isn’t so easy to hand over the keys to the offense.
According to center Nick Mangold, the Jets locker room would vote Sanchez the starter. “I believe so. I haven’t walked around with a pen and paper and taken a poll, but from the feeling I get, the locker room wants to win. Whoever gives us the best chance to do that, we want out there — and at this point, Mark gives us that best chance,” he explained.
Fair enough, so Sanchez has played better and has locker room support. Case closed, he’s still the starter.
Not so fast.
Week three of the preseason, Geno Smith and the starters come out of the annual battle with the Giants in the fourth quarter. The team is down but healthy, essentially a win in the preseason. Coach Rex Ryan decides that he wants to take a risk so that he can win the Snoopy Trophy that goes to the victor of the meaningless contest. He trots out Mark Sanchez, who gets decked and goes down with an injury.
The team has kept the injury hush-hush and as a result, now we don’t know when he will be able to return this season.
New York has taken steps that make it appear as if he won’t be available against Tampa Bay though. Smith has naturally taken over the starting role in practice, and the team has moved on with their practice schedule.
But this weekend they signed backup quarterback Brady Quinn. If Sanchez was going to play anytime soon, why would they bring in a backup who is unfamiliar with their playbook. It now looks as if Mark could miss a good deal of time due to his injury.
And what happens now when he comes back? With Smith starting, have the Jets already moved on from him and began the era of Geno?
Should Quinn prove to be an adequate backup, who will be number two on the depth chart when Sanchez is healthy enough to suit up?
Nothing is clear as of now.
It’s never a good idea to go into a season with a cloudy quarterback situation, controversies can plague a season. The Jets and Rex Ryan did this to themselves and will not have to work their way out of it. The stakes are high for Ryan and company this year, if they again struggle he could easily be out of a job. Those two AFC Championship Game appearances seem distant memories to fans and management alike.
Whether he likes it or not, Geno is his week one guy. If he struggles, the team could be back at square one of the QB battle. This time with a third, dark horse candidate joining the battle.
Follow me on Twitter @CharlieGille
Senior Sports Editor
The Guardian Express