The New York Jets have perhaps the most intriguing quarterback competition of the NFL preseason, as incumbent Mark Sanchez tries to retain his job by fending off rookie Geno Smith. However, the Jets have put a twist on that competition by intimating that if Sanchez does indeed win the starting job that it would be possible to see Smith get snaps, possibly as a read-option specialist to give the Jets’ offense a different dimension. This is a horrible idea, and if it’s actually implemented during the regular season, it will have a long list of negative consequences for both Sanchez and Smith, as well as the Jets.
The Jets tried to do the same thing last year with Tim Tebow, but it didn’t work then with a player that’s only useful running the ball, and it’s not going to work now with a quarterback in Smith that actually has the potential to be a starter in the NFL. If Sanchez ends up being the best quarterback on the team and is made the starter, then he should be handed the keys to the entire offense, and he shouldn’t have to worry about being interrupted midway through a drive. Due to the manner that the team, most notably head coach Rex Ryan, have jerked Sanchez around over the past couple of years, he is low on confidence, and having to sit out plays while a rookie takes over isn’t going to inspire confidence in him, especially when that rookie is a legitimate threat to take over his job full time. If Sanchez is going to have any chance to be successful this year and lead the team to wins, he needs to have confidence and feel that the team is behind him, which won’t be the case if Smith keeps getting subbed in and throwing Sanchez off his rhythm.
As for Smith, making him a read-option novelty isn’t going to help his development; he needs to become accustomed to being a full-time quarterback. Although Smith is a good athlete and a capable runner, that’s not the strength of his game, and it’s not the reason why the Jets drafted him in the second round. Smith is a pass-first quarterback, and isn’t always comfortable leaving the pocket; and even when he does, he is generally still looking downfield for an open receiver to throw to. Making Smith enter the game at odd times to run the read-option would take him out of his comfort zone and not put him in a position to have success, which is not going to help the Jets win games, and it’s not going to help make Smith a better quarterback.
Furthermore, the fan base is already divided between Sanchez and Smith, and making it a point to play both of them will only add to that. That’s not to suggest that fans should dictate decision making, or even have any say in the matter, but giving Smith any playing time while Sanchez is the starter opens the door to speculation that Sanchez could be replaced at any moment, and that kind of instability at quarterback would not be beneficial to the Jets this season.
As tempting as it might be to use Smith as a read-option quarterback in short stints, the Jets don’t need to recreate the situation they had last season with Tebow. It won’t benefit Smith’s development and it won’t benefit Sanchez to be sharing snaps with his backup. If the Jets are serious about winning, and serious about giving Sanchez a honest chance to lead them to wins, they need to let him play and keep Smith on the bench unless he’s ready to take over for Sanchez full time. The Jets are the last team in the NFL that needs a quarterback controversy to take place during the regular season, and once the preseason is over they should avoid creating one at all costs.