The era of the butt fumble in New York is well and truly over. The arrival of Michael Vick from Philadelphia saw Mark Sanchez’s tenure with the Jets end, as he headed to the city of Brotherly Love to effective replace Vick. On the face of the deal, Vick’s one year deal (reported to be for $5 million) would appear to be bad news for Geno Smith, who was the starter for the Jets throughout the 2013 season.
Smith was, however, thrust into the role earlier than the Jets would have ideally wanted due to Sanchez’s shoulder injury in pre-season that ensured he missed the entirety of what turned out to be his final year in New York. Smith initially showed promise and an ability to win games, but struggled later in the season as the lack of weapons on offense hurt him and his production badly. Smith finished his rookie season with 3046 yards passing, but this came alongside a 12-21 touchdown to interception ratio and a rating of just 66.5. He also had to watch fellow rookie Matt Simms struggle to a rating of 63.4 in performances against Miami and Buffalo.
With the confidence in Sanchez clearly gone, going into 2014 without an experienced quarterback would have been a disaster for Rex Ryan’s team. Bringing in the experienced Vick could prove to be a masterstroke in helping the Jets both immediately and in the future. The former Falcon and Eagle has a career passer rating of 80.9 and has thrown for 128 scores in his time in the league. He has clearly moved to the Jets with the intention of being the starter going into the 2014 campaign, yet this could actually end up helping Smith in his development.
In a rookie year, a quarterback needs an experienced player to learn from; even more so if they are starting. While Sanchez was able to provide advice, Smith was not able to learn from him in practice sessions due to the former’s injury. Initially Smith showed signs of being able to cope, but suffered a terrible spell mid season in which his best completion percentage was just 42.1 against the Saints and he went five games without throwing a touchdown. A recovery in the last few games of the season did enough to confirm his potential, but also showed that he still has a lot to learn.
This is where Vick comes into the equation. The competition will undoubtedly ensure that Smith needs to raise his game and, even if he is demoted to second string, a season watching and learning from a veteran like Vick should mean that his game is in a better shape than it would have been had he had to continue to do his learning on the field under the glare of the harsh spotlight of the NFL.
Vick’s experience and skill set gives the Jets the best chance of winning now. For them to make the playoffs an increased offensive production is needed and there is no doubt that Vick in the best option in that respect. But if Vick can teach Smith at the same time then he will be doing a great job in ensuring a succession strategy is in place when he moves on from New York.
If he can take his opportunity to learn and develop out of the spotlight then the signing of Vick could turn out to be a move that ensures Smith can achieve a successful NFL career. Whether this pans out is now down to how well Vick and Smith themselves can step up to the challenge in 2014. Over to you gentlemen...