There had been plenty of speculation concerning the New York Jets quarterback situation since the outset of free agency. Many wondered if the Jets would finally cut their losses and move on from the failed Mark Sanchez project, while others questioned if a certain free agent signal caller from the Eagles would dawn Jets’ green for the 2014 season. On Friday, those questions were finally put to rest. Sanchez is out, and Michael Vick is destined for the bright lights of New York City.
Only moments after news hit that Sanchez had been released, the Jets revealed that they had signed Vick to a one year $5 million dollar contract. And while it is not exactly Peyton Manning money, it is considerably more than most backups get paid. So what does this mean for the 33 year old field general? Is he just a high-priced insurance policy, or will he be starting on Sundays?
According to the Jets organization, Vick has been brought in to compete against second year quarterback Geno Smith for the starting position. Often the current quarterback will have a leg up in a position battle as he is more familiar with the offensive system, but Vick may know the system as well as anyone having played the better part of four seasons under Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg when both were in Philadelphia. And, while Mornhinweg has seen dual-threat Michael Vick perform at a pro bowl level in his offense, the jury is still out on what kind of quarterback Smith really is.
A second round pick in last year’s draft, Smith had a very turbulent rookie season. There were some bright performances, highlighted by five game-winning drives, but there were also some real stinkers, as evidenced by his 21 interceptions and eight fumbles. He showed genuine promise at times and then looked completely lost during others, something Jets fans experienced far too often with Mark Sanchez. Granted, Smith was a rookie tossed into the fray from day one and he did not have much of a supporting cast to ease his transition to the pro game, but such is the breaks in today’s fast-paced NFL. There is no loyalty. Winning is all that matters, and unless Smith can prove that he can do the job he might find himself watching from the sideline. Is it fair? Maybe not, but Head Coach Rex Ryan simply does not have time to waste on developing another quarterback. He knows he must win, and without steady play from the quarterback position that will not happen.
Enter Mike Vick, who has not exactly been the beacon of consistency in recent seasons, and his well-documented injury history reads like a medical journal, but he can inject life into an offense with his highlight reel play-making ability. Is he a bit of an enigma at times? He can be. Does he often force passes into coverage leading to drive-killing turnovers? Sure. Does he make himself susceptible to big hits running all over the field with reckless abandon? Absolutely. However, he does possess one thing that Smith does not, numerous years of NFL experience. The critics can say what they want about Michael Vick but he has played in some big games, and he has won some big games, and that is something Geno Smith does not have on his resume. So as it stands right now, not only is Michael Vick destined for the bright lights of NYC, but if he can stay healthy he could be destined for the starting gig come week one of the season.
However, that is a big ‘if’ as the knock on Vick has always been the injury bug. He has only played one full season in his entire career, and do not expect that to change as he approaches his mid-thirties. So even if the 2010 NFL Comeback Player of the Year secures the top spot on the depth chart the season is long and often unforgiving, which is why Smith’s progression is still crucial to the franchise.
Smith knows that this could be his opportunity to show that he truly belongs in the league. Vick knows this could be his last chance as a starting NFL quarterback. Rex Ryan knows that his future could rest on which quarterback he chooses. The stage is set. Michael Vick is destined for the bright lights of New York, but what the Jets’ ultimate destiny will be is anyone’s guess.
Commentary by Kalen Skalesky