It's not entirely fair to blast his performance alone when saying this, but New York Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith has suffered through one of the more brutal months that any NFL signal-caller has ever had. Smith hasn't thrown a touchdown pass since Oct. 20, but he has thrown eight picks since Oct. 27. Smith has completed just 49-of-104 passes in that time, averaged 5.1 yards per attempt, and hasn't had a passer rating over 72.0 since his one great game against the Atlanta Falcons on Oct. 7.
When Smith looked completely overwhelmed against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday -- completing 4-of-10 passes for 29 yards and yet another interception -- he was benched in favor of Matt Simms for the second half. It was 364 days after former starter Mark Sanchez was benched in favor of backup Greg McElroy, which is a fairly decent indicator of just how odd the franchise's quarterback situation has been during Rex Ryan's tenure.
"You can’t expect that," Smith said after the Jets' 23-3 loss. "That’s a decision that’s made by the coaches. Obviously, you want to be out there. I always want to be out there with my teammates and always want to be out there fighting. The decision was made and my next move was to now be supportive of my teammates and be supportive of Matt and I tried my best to do that in that moment. Just support Matt, support all the guys on the offense and try to lead from the sideline."
The Jets, however, will stick with Smith as a starter in the short term, according to the quarterback.
"If it was a tactic to wake me up or get me going, it definitely worked," Smith said Monday.
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Get going with what, is the question. It's fairly clear that Smith has some developing to do as an NFL quarterback -- he was highly prolific at West Virginia, but the level of defensive complexity at the next level has forced Smith to over-think his process, and the frequent result is that he takes too long to get rid of the ball, and often makes the wrong decisions when he doesn't. Primary receiver Santonio Holmes has been dealing with injuries all season, the offensive line has turned from strength to weakness, and though the team's front seven is still one of the NFL's best, Ryan's secondary puts Smith in positions where he has to play catch-up.
That's not to deflect blame entirely away from Smith, but he came into a situation that was an uphill battle for any quarterback, and he didn't have the tools to accelerate past the obstacles.
Ryan, who's always been a defensive genius, sounds no more sure of how to solve the problem now than he did when Sanchez dissolved as a credible player over a number of years.
"We’re going to evaluate. We’ll take a look at the tape and evaluate it at the appropriate time. ... It’s safe to say that we’ll put the guys in who we think give us the best chance to be successful. That’s the way it always is and will be moving forward." In the short term, that apparently means that Geno Smith is the man. But putting a rookie on a short leash when his confidence is already blasted? That may backfire, as most of the franchise's quarterback decisions have backfired in recent years.