The New York Jets have talent, and plenty of it. They also have a head coach in Todd Bowles who cemented himself last season of a solid lead man who can run an entire team. However, there is one key thing the Jets are missing: a quarterback.
First let’s take a look at the team as a whole. On the offense, they have plenty of weapons. During the off-season, the Jets gave 30 year old running back Matt Forte, formally of the Chicago Bears, was given a two year deal. He is a better fit for the Chan Gailey offense compared to last year’s lead back, Chris Ivory, now a member of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Forte provides the pass catching ability out of the backfield that Gailey likes to utilize. He does have a lot of mileage on his legs however, so his backups will be important as well. Bilal Powell is back, and he will serve as the versatile duel threat that he was last season. Over the course of 70 rushing attempts last season, Powell averaged nearly 4.5 yards per carry, and also added in 47 receptions. Khiry Robinson is also on the depth chart, and he has shown flashes of potential during his stint in New Orleans, and can also catch passes out of the backfield.
At receiver, the Jets own one of the best duos in the entire NFL. Brandon Marshall had a monster season last year, hauling in 109 passes for 1,502 yards. Add in 14 touchdowns and Marshall had one of the best seasons of all wide receivers last season. Then add in Eric Decker who added in another 80 receptions, 1,027 yards and 12 touchdowns. You are not going to find many combos that can put up those kind of numbers together in a single season on the same team.
Given Chan Gailey likes to spread the field, other receivers will have to step up as well. Kenbrell Thompkins, formally with division rival New England, has shown flashes of being a capable number three who can go deep. Devin Smith will enter his second season, and should show some signs of improvement given he has had a year to learn the ins and outs of the NFL. Tight end Jace Amaro is also a talented receiver, but he battled shoulder woes, and the tight end usually does not get much love in a Chan Gailey offense. But at the end of the day, there is plenty of talent in their core of receivers, with Marshall and Decker leading the way.
The offensive line also has quite a bit of talent. Nick Mangold will return to once again anchor the big men. Talented but oft-injured former Bronco Ryan Clady was brought in via trade. When healthy, Clady can be one of the best lineman in the entire league. James Carpenter is a former first rounder who will now be in his second season with the Jets, and was fantastic last year.
Then on the defensive side of the ball there is also plenty of talent. Leonard Williams, last year’s first round pick, got better and better as the season went along. Sheldon Richardson is extremely talented, but will be suspended for week 1. His off the field issues are a concern, but there is no denying when he is playing, he is a force. David Harris has been a rock for the Jets since 2007, and he is on the field almost all the time. This year they drafted Darron Lee out of Ohio State, and he brings some fantastic upside.
In the secondary, Darrelle Revis is roaming around. Revis is now 30, and it does appear he has lost a step and is no longer the total shutdown corner he used to be, but he is still above average. Most teams would love to have Revis in their secondary still. Buster Skrine and Marcus Williams will likely compete for the spot across from Revis. At safety the Jets have a solid pair as well, with Calvin Pryor and Marcus Gilchrist.
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So with all of this talent, how could the Jets not be considered one of the favorites in their division, and targeted for the playoffs? The answer: they have a serious question at quarterback. That question is, can the New York Jets win with Geno Smith as their starting quarterback,
Last season, Ryan Fitzpatrick had a career year. He threw for 31 touchdowns and nearly 4,000 yards. Fitzpatrick had been with Gailey for three seasons in Buffalo with the Bill, and that experience surely helped. Fitzpatrick also has a Harvard education, which tells you he is a smart quarterback who was capable of making smart decisions. Despite that, he did throw 15 interceptions, mainly because he is simply not the most talented quarterback, and his arm strength is not the best.
Fitzpatrick is currently a free agent, as the Jets and the quarterback cannot agree on a new contract. Fitzpatrick is not afraid of walking away and retiring, as he knows the Jets need him way more than he needs them. With that education, I would imagine he is smart enough to have saved some money and can live a comfortable life without ever playing another down in the NFL.
And that leaves the Jets with Geno Smith, a fourth year quarterback, as the starter for the Jets. Smith has better arm strength than Fitzpatrick, but he is not the decision maker that Fitzpatrick is. Smith has thrown 35 interceptions in his career, and only 26 touch downs. It is never a good sign when a quarterback is throwing the ball more to the opposing defense than his guys in the end zone.
Smith’s accuracy is also pretty poor. In a full season, Smith has typically completes passes at a rate less than 60%. Last season he was at a 64% completion percentage, but that was with only 42 passing attempts. Typically you want a quarterback that is in the upper 60’s and approaching 70. You can argue that Fitzpatrick only threw at a rate of about 60% last season, and that would be accurate.
However, it should be noted that despite Fitzpatrick’s career season, the team still failed to make the playoffs, despite a 10-6 record. And now let us factor in this season’s schedule. This season looks like it is no walk in the park for the Jets. Outside of the division, the Jets will be facing the likes of the AFC North and the NFC West, as opposed to the AFC South and NFC East like last year.
That means the Jets need to go up against teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Seattle Seahawks, the Arizona Cardinals and Cincinnati Bengals instead of New York Giants, the Tennessee Titans, the Philadelphia Eagles and the Jacksonville Jaguars. The schedule is going to be rough, and there are going to be some very hard defenses facing Gang Green.
So pair that with the fact that Geno did not get to get many reps last season, his overall lack of accuracy, poor decision making, and the fact that he has not had three years experience with Chan Gailey, and it is hard to imagine the Jets taking a step forward.
Fitzpatrick could not get the team to a playoffs with a career year and going against a fairly easy schedule. So with Geno at the helm, it is very hard to imagine the team cracking 10 wins again, meaning the playoffs are not very likely. Even if he takes a step forward in the talent department, at best he would match last season. And as I have stated, last season ended without a playoff appearance.
So now let’s get back to the question, can the New York Jets win with Geno Smith? The answer: no, they cannot. The talent surrounding him on offense does him no good if he is throwing interceptions or overthrowing his receivers. The defense can only do so much for the team. Given their current schedule, I would venture to say the Jets are looking at a 5-11 season if Geno is under center.