Rich Cimini | ESPN.com
Coach Rex Ryan made the announcement Monday, 24 hours after declining to give Smith a vote of confidence in the aftermath of a 19-3 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
“Right now, I would feel he gives us the best chance to win,” Ryan said.
Ryan refused to say whether he considered starting backup Matt Simms, a first-year player whose only experience came in two mop-up outings. He also dodged a question about whether he’d give Simms some first-team reps in practice this week.
The Jets’ other option is veteran journeyman David Garrard, who came out of a brief retirement only six weeks ago. But Garrard hasn’t dressed for a game and hasn’t taken a regular-season snap since 2010.
Smith, who has started every game, has slipped into a funk. His passer ratings in the last two games — both losses — were 10.1 and 22.3. He has only one touchdown pass and 10 interceptions in the last six games, his turnover total ballooning to 22.
The ugly numbers go on and on, but the most telling statistic is that the Jets (5-6), under .500 for the first time, have managed only one offensive touchdown in the last 31 possessions with Smith at quarterback.
Ryan acknowledged that “we have to get more production out of the quarterback position,” but he insisted the negative stats “don’t paint the entire picture.” He ran down a laundry list of other issues, most notably pass protection and inconsistent play by the wide receivers.
“At times, the guy has done a nice job,” Ryan said of Smith. “Geno has done a nice job here. I think the team has confidence in him and I have confidence in him.”
Yet Ryan felt compelled to address his team Monday on the importance of sticking together amid the adversity, warning them that critics will try to divide the locker room.
“Sometimes outside influences can try to chip away at the foundation of your team, and I certainly don’t need that,” Ryan said.
Publicly, the players have remained supportive of Smith, but the frustration is growing. The coaches have scaled back the game plans to help Smith, vexing some who believe that is hurting the overall offense.
The offense was so dysfunctional Sunday that, for the first 54 minutes, Smith had as many receptions as the Jets’ leading wide receiver — one. On a trick play, he caught a 13-yard pass from Josh Cribbs, who threw out of the Wildcat package.
Smith finished 9 of 22 for 127 yards and two interceptions, his third straight game with single-digit completions.
“I didn’t do enough, didn’t get the job done,” Smith said. “We didn’t score a touchdown, so that’s never good. Just didn’t do enough. We’ve got to figure out ways to just get better and to put points on the board. It’s pretty simple. We need to score touchdowns and put points on the board.”
Ryan credited Smith for improving in two areas — pocket awareness and throwing it away when no one was open. The Ravens applied a heavy rush, but Smith was able to escape at times. That pleased Ryan.
“He improved from [the] previous week even though numbers say there wasn’t a whole lot of improvement,” he said.
Monday was a good day for Smith. Aside from retaining his job, he learned that the league changed the scoring on a second-quarter lost fumble, charging center Nick Mangold. Initially, Smith was charged on the weird play — a shotgun snap that hit a receiver in motion.
- Longtime Jets beat writer for New York Daily News
- Syracuse University graduate