Rich Cimini | ESPN.com
“As of right now, he’s our best shot, in my opinion,” coach Rex Ryan said Monday, explaining his decision to stick with the slumping rookie after benching him Sunday at halftime.
Such is the sad state of the Jets’ quarterback position.
Ryan opted for Smith over Matt Simms, who committed two turnovers in relief of the ineffective Smith. Veteran journeyman David Garrard, who hasn’t taken a regular-season snap in three years, wasn’t a consideration, according to a league source.
The Jets (5-7) have dropped three in a row after a surprising start, fueling speculation about Ryan’s job security. Every game is critical for Ryan, starting Sunday against the Oakland Raiders, but he continues to entrust the team to a rookie with no touchdown passes and eight interceptions in his last five games.
“I believe in Geno,” Ryan said. “I think he has the tools to be a good quarterback in this league. I believe that. Obviously, he’s going through some rough times. These last three games haven’t been good for him. Quite honestly, it hasn’t been good for a lot of us.”
Ryan has yanked Smith in three games, but Sunday was the first time he did it with the outcome in doubt — 6-0 at halftime. Simms, in his first meaningful NFL action, failed to spark the team, as the Jets went on to a 23-3 loss to the Miami Dolphins.
Afterward, Ryan said he needed to watch the tape before making his quarterback choice. On Monday, he admitted the tape served no purpose.
“If we’re just looking at that tape, the option doesn’t look good for either guy,” the coach said.
Smith said he received the news in an early-morning meeting with quarterbacks coach David Lee.
“If it was a tactic to wake me up or get me going, it definitely worked because right now I definitely feel a sense of urgency,” said Smith, alluding to his halftime benching.
Smith completed only four of 10 passes for 29 yards and an interception, dropping his passer rating to a league-low 60.4. He leads the league with 23 turnovers and has led the offense to only one touchdown in his last 36 possessions.
There is the perception that general manager John Idzik, who drafted Smith, is pulling the strings. Ryan called it an “organizational decision.” In making the announcement to reporters, Ryan started off by saying, “We’re going to go with …”
He quickly re-booted.
“I’m going to go with Geno as our quarterback,” he said.
Ryan gave it quite a sell job, praising Smith’s perseverance as his greatest attribute.
“I’m just waiting for him to have a great game,” he said. “I think he has it in him, I don’t think there’s any doubt. We’ll find out soon enough.”
Smith showed promise early in the season, but he has regressed in recent weeks. So has the entire offense. The Jets became the first team since the 2008 Cleveland Browns to score three of fewer points in back-to-back games.
“We have to play better football,” guard Willie Colon said. “It’s ugly right now.”
Smith received the Mark Sanchez treatment during Sunday’s home game, as he was booed several times. Simms, who began training camp as the No. 4 quarterback on a four-man depth chart, received a rousing welcome.
Smith still believes he’s the right man for the job.
“It’s hard for people to believe that with the tough stretch we’ve had, but that’s just the confidence I have in myself,” he said. “I know for a fact that my teammates and coaches have that same confidence in me.”
If Simms was disappointed, he didn’t express it. At this point in his career, he’s happy to have a job. He was undrafted out of Tennessee in 2012 and spent a year out of football after failing to make the Jets as a rookie.
Simms said he received a postgame critique from his father. Asked to repeat the positive feedback, he smiled and said, “That I didn’t make it worse.”
That would have been hard to do.
- Longtime Jets beat writer for New York Daily News
- Syracuse University graduate