New York Jets: Preseason is crucial for all 3 quarterbacks


As football fans, we almost never put “crucial” and “preseason” in the same sentence.

Preseason for most of us is a time of celebration.

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We all love having that unbridled optimism about the upcoming season.   But as far as the games go, we really don’t care about them.  We just want the major players of our team to make it through healthy, and ready, for the start of the regular season.

However, when we hear the narrative of, “the preseason doesn’t matter” or “the preseason games are inconsequential”….that’s definitely not the case for the players.

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Every year there are position battles to be won or lost.  Every year there are rookies, and second year players, who need to step up and show that they can handle the workload.  And every year, new coaches need to give their team a feel of what their coaching style, and temperament, will be on game day.

For the Jets, this preseason will be used to answer the most critical question facing the organization for 2015 and beyond.

Who will be the quarterback of the New York Jets?

In all likelihood, the opening day starter will be Geno Smith.

If Barack Obama himself decreed by presidential order that Geno be stripped of his starting job, he would probably still trot out there against the Browns.  The only way that he won’t start is the dreaded “I” word (injury) or if he completely implodes in the pre-season games…which is not likely.

One of the main focuses of the preseason for the Jets will be the battle for the backup QB position between veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick and rookie Bryce Petty.  While Geno will get to sit back and watch this unfold, the outcome of this battle will affect Smith just as much as it will affect the two combatants Petty and Fitzpatrick.

How so you ask?

Let’s look at it from Geno’s perspective.

Simply put, if Bryce Petty significantly outplays Ryan Fitzpatrick and starts the season as the clear cut backup, Geno will be…“excreting clay material that’s used to build houses” or what the Knicks were throwing up at the basket this past season…if you get my drift!

This particular season, there is a unique set of circumstances that will make things very problematic for Smith should Petty win the backup job.

  • Overall, Smith’s play has been poor for the first two years of his career
  • He is playing for a new GM and a new head coach, both in their first stints in those high profile leadership positions
  • This season the Jets have their bye in week 5

A bye in week 5 is extremely early for a quarterback who is in “win now or get shipped out of town” mode.

Making a change at QB is never something that coaches want to do during the season.  But if there is a need to make a change, especially if you’re going to a rookie backup, it’s always ideal for the coaching staff to make that change during the bye week.  This way the new rookie starter, and the team, will have an extra week of preparation.

Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

So basically, Smith has four games to prove that he deserves to be the Jets starting QB for this season and for the future.

The games are not exactly cake walks.

The Jets open with the Browns at home, then at the Colts, the Eagles at home, then on the road at Miami.

If Geno plays relatively well and the Jets are 3-1 (or 2-2 with a bad inexplicable loss that wasn’t “his fault”), then he will probably hold onto the job and he may actually lead the Jets to a successful season.

However, especially if Bryce Petty is waiting in the wings, the Jets can go no worse than 2-2 in the first 4 games if Geno expects to hold on to his job.

Should the Jets get off to a slow start, the boo-birds will be out in force and Todd Bowles will not hesitate to pull the trigger and make a change.  The most popular person on the team is always the backup QB, especially if the starter has been struggling for a couple of years.

Also, the fans will EXTRA vociferous with their booing, as Jets fans have been known to be, because they want to see if Petty has the goods to be that franchise QB they have been looking for since Broadway Joe.

And as stated above, Mike Maccagnan and Todd Bowles are both in their first stints as a GM and Head Coach respectively.  Do either one of these guys want to hitch their wagon to Geno Smith?  If they have a chance to see if the guy who they drafted can play, they will take that chance.

Conversely, if Fitzpatrick wins the backup job, there will be a lot less pressure on Geno should he struggle early.

So what is the difference if Fitz is the backup?  It’s a subtle difference, but it’s there.

Everyone knows that Fitzpatrick is not the long term answer at quarterback.

So, hypothetically, let’s say the Jets are 0-2 going into a week 3 tilt at home against Chip Kelly and the Eagles.  Should Geno struggle with the team at 0-2, the boo birds will be out in force and people will call for Fitzpatrick.

But if Fireman Ed and the people of Met Life are calling for Fitzpatrick, it will be borne out of frustration and anger.  Whereas if they are calling for Petty, it will be out of enthusiasm and hope!

There is a difference.  Geno does not want to hear the latter.  It won’t be pretty.

By all accounts, Fitzpatrick should be able to beat out Petty and keep him on the sideline as the 3rd QB.

Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Fitzpatrick is a capable quarterback.  He’s thrown 123TDs as a starting QB in the NFL.  He has been named AFC offensive player of the month. He even signed a lucrative 6 year 59 million dollar contact to be the Bills starting QB in 2011, so obviously he has proven himself capable on the NFL gridiron.

Also, this is Fitzpatrick’s “last best chance” to be a quarterback in the NFL.  He signed with the Jets because he knows that he actually has a decent chance to play.  It’s not like he’s backing up Andrew Luck.

Should Fitzpatrick secure the backup position, it would be ideal for all 3 quarterbacks, and for the team.

Fitzpatrick will stay engaged in practice, meetings, and on the sideline because he knows that he has a chance to play.  For Petty, this will allow him to sit on the sidelines, learn the offense, learn the ways of the NFL, the practices, the meeting rooms, the playbook etc.

And for Geno, it will take a little bit of pressure off of him and allow him to settle in knowing that the fans and the organization aren’t clamoring to see his backup play.

But Petty is a competitor.  He won’t just concede the battle to Fitzpatrick.

The evaluation process will play itself out over the first 3 preseason games.  The outcome of this competition will have a profound effect on how the fans, the players (particularly Geno Smith), and the coaching staff approach the first quarter of the season should the Jets’ offense struggle early.

The moral of the story…don’t tell Geno Smith or the Jets that preseason doesn’t matter.  It definitely matters this year, and the proof will be in the pudding of the Jets record after the first four games of the season.

Next: How will the cross city rival Giants fare in training camp?

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