The New York Jets and head coach Rex Ryan made a decision this season to go with rookie quarterback Geno Smith over Mark Sanchez heading into the year. This choice was essentially made for the Jets after Ryan sent Sanchez out in the fourth quarter of a meaningless preseason game, only to see the former starter injured shortly after. Even without that injury, fans and management alike appeared ready for a change at quarterback, for better or for worse.
But as we come to the midway marker of the 2013 NFL season, it is worth asking if the 4-4 Jets are truly better off with Smith under center in comparison to what they would have been with Sanchez.
The obvious answer is yes. Smith has shown flashes of potential in each Jets victory, when playing at a high level Smith has already shown he can play above anything Sanchez was capable of. He can lead the Jets down the field and squeak out a victory when the pressure turns up in the fourth quarter. Making something out of nothing, rising up to the challenge, Smith has the skills to be a star one day.
That being said he is clearly a rookie. Geno Smith has not once followed up a win with a solid performance the next week. In fact, his New York Jets have won every other game this season, with Smith alternating between dazzling and dreadful each week.
In wins, he has thrown at least as many touchdowns as interceptions every time. Every loss has seen turnovers kill Smith’s attack. Not once has he thrown for as many touchdowns as interceptions in a loss. It stands to reason that turnovers by the rookie during his up and down season have derailed the offense and prevented the team from winning.
Rookies often struggle to find immediate success at the professional level, and Geno Smith is no exception. What has become clear however is that Smith is a game changer, while Sanchez obviously is just a game manager.
But in the ‘win now’ NFL, Rex Ryan was said to be coaching for his job this season after consecutive disappointing seasons. Ryan needs a playoff berth or at least an above .500 record if he wants to continue coaching the New York Jets in the years to come.
Can Geno Smith deliver that? He would have to find a way to string together positive performances back to back while avoiding the turnovers that have hurt the offense so far. Would this team be playoff contenders with Mark Sanchez under center?
Lets look at the facts.
For starters, Mark Sanchez has experience on his side. Not only as a starter, but as a winner. In each of his first two seasons in the NFL, Sanchez took his Jets to the AFC Championship game.
Since those seasons, Sanchez struggled mightily to recreate his initial success. His struggles were well documented to the point that fans were calling for his benching throughout the last part of his staring tenure. But from a numbers perspective is Smith really an improvement from Sanchez?
Through the first half of the season, Smith has eight touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Looking back at the first half of 2012, Sanchez had ten touchdowns eight interceptions. More efficient and shockingly better at protecting the football. Yet no one is calling for Smith to be benched.
Yardage also leans towards Sanchez as the better quarterback option for Gang Green. Sanchez threw for 300 plus yards twice in the first half of last year, while Smith only has one 300 yard passing game to his credit so far.
When you add in the fact that Sanchez clearly outplayed Smith throughout training camp and the preseason and surely would have been named the starter if not for his injury and the pressure from outside the playing field had no bearing on Rex Ryan’s coaching decisions, it becomes a little less obvious who is truly the best passer for the J-E-T-S Jets Jets Jets.
While no one is arguing that Geno Smith is the Jets quarterback of the future, one has to wonder whether or not they would be better positioned in the playoff hunt with Mark Sanchez leading the way this season.