Jets third-year quarterback Geno Smith is officially in a make-it-or-break-it season. If he didn’t already know that himself, surely the boos at Saturday’s practice at Meadowlands Stadium were a not-so-subtle reminder that the former second-round pick is likely on a short leash this season.
Of course Smith should know this given that the GM who selected the young quarterback, who put up the fifth-worst quarterback rating last year, and the coach who couldn’t seem to get the most out of him, have both been let go.
In addition, with veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick—who finished with the ninth-best QB rating in 2014—breathing down his neck, Smith needs a breakthrough performance to keep his job, now more than ever.
Of course, Smith knows how to give a one-time good performance. The talented but inconsistent 24-year-old actually had a couple last year—like the 23–28 win, passing for 221 yards against Oakland in Week 1, or the 20–25 win for 358 yards precision job against Miami in Week 17.
It’s just the 15 weeks in between that weren’t so great.
To recap, there was the 4/12 for 27 yards and a pick show in the embarrassing 31–0 loss to San Diego; the 7/13 for 65 yards and a pick performance against Miami; and the jaw-droppingly awful 2/8 for 5 yards with three interceptions (not a misprint) meltdown in the home loss to Buffalo that finally forced Rex Ryan’s slow hand to replace him.
But Ryan is gone, and with it the belief that giving the young quarterback the keys to the franchise without worry of ever being benched—unless he’s absolutely forced to—is gone as well.
In as head coach is Todd Bowles. He and new GM Mike Maccagnan have made sure that Smith, or Fitzpatrick, have more weapons to succeed—and no excuses if they don’t.
Maccagnan supplemented the Jets receiving corps by adding the talented, five-time Pro-Bowler Brandon Marshall, who should form a nice 1–2 combination with Smith-favorite Eric Decker. With Jeremy Kerley still in the slot and second-year tight end Jace Amaro ready to break out, Smith has plenty of options in the passing game.
Maccagnan also didn’t draft Smith and has less invested in seeing him succeed. Should Smith put up the same low numbers this year, it’ll likely be his last season as a Jet.