FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Michael Vick, surrounded by a crowd of reporters in front of his locker, was in mid-sentence when a public-relations official announced that Geno Smith was available for interviews. About 10 media types bolted for Smith, showing a better burst than Chris Johnson on Monday night.
“I guess we know who the most important guy is around here now,” Vick said, laughing as he watched the exodus. “It’s certainly not me.”
Yes, Smith is the most important guy, but the reason he attracted so much attention is because there’s blood in the water.
The New York Jets’ starting quarterback is wounded, coming off a poor performance, prompting the knee-jerk crowd to start screaming for a change to Vick. Others have offered conditional opinions, saying Smith should be benched if he has another stinker Sunday against the Detroit Lions.
It would be an upset if the Jets bail on Smith at the quarter pole of the season. They’ve invested 19 games in him, and they still believe he has a bright future. And let’s not forget who’s running the organization: It’s John the Deliberate. John Idzik, the general manager, moves slower than pond water. Rex Ryan, too, isn’t known for a quick hook. He stuck with Mark Sanchez for nearly four years, didn’t he?
At this point, any thought of yanking Smith is misguided. Yes, he cost the Jets at least 10 points with two interceptions in the 27-19 loss to the Chicago Bears, but he also had the team in position for a potential, game-tying touchdown late in the game. He found Jeremy Kerley in the end zone, but it was a stride beyond the end line. It was a similar deal in Green Bay, where Smith’s final pass — moments after the infamous, tag-team timeout by Marty Mornhinweg and Sheldon Richardson — went off Kerley’s pleading fingertips in the end zone.
The smart move is to stay the course.
On Wednesday, Smith handled the inquisition quite nicely, insisting he’s not worried about his job security. Asked if he believes he’s on the hot seat, he replied curtly, “No, not at all.” Earlier in the day, he told the Detroit media he’s immune to the criticism and the calls for Vick because none of them are coming from the locker room.
“They don’t exist within our locker room,” he said. “They don’t exist around here.”
If Smith’s one-game stinker turns into a prolonged slump, it’ll make for an interesting decision. Before making Vick the starter, though, they’d be wise to go the mini-benching route. In other words, make an in-game change to Vick, then go back to Smith the following week. Ryan did that last season, benching Smith at halftime in Week 13. That snapped him out of his funk, as he finished the season on an upbeat note.
Ryan refused to address the possibility of an in-game change, claiming he doesn’t like to deal with negative hypotheticals. He said the Smith-Vick dynamic is the “perfect situation,” adding that he “absolutely” believes Vick could come in and win games.
“But I also believe Geno can win games,” he said.
Ryan said he hopes Smith will start the remainder of the season, but he stopped short of making the season-long commitment, adding, “Things happen and we’ll see.”
So, yes, Ryan opened the door a crack, but he knows the best thing for his own job security is to succeed with Smith. A 9-7, non-playoff season with Vick would be worse than 8-8 or 7-9 with Smith, because they’d be starting over at quarterback in 2015. Vick’s best days are behind him. The notion that he’d be an automatic upgrade is off base. He might be, but he might not be. He hasn’t been a winning starter since 2011. Vick, 34, isn’t the future. Even he knows that.
“I’ve heard this all before,” he said, referring to quarterback debate. “You have to bear with the young guy and give him a chance and work with him, and believe in him.”