Jets fans would no doubt love to see Smith be ready to go for Week 1 and be the starting quarterback right away. But what are the chances of that really happening?
The quarterback competition this summer has become simpler than it was with the retirement of David Garrard. Garrard would have been the most veteran and arguably the most reliable presence on the team. Instead, it is now a two-way competition between Smith and the incumbent Mark Sanchez.
There are several scenarios that remain possible. I'll break down the likelihood of each case to determine what the probable future is for the Jets heading into the 2013 season.
Case 1: Smith Starts Week 1
The first possibility is that Smith will start in Week 1. This is in a sense the best case because it would mean that Smith has demonstrated he is ready to play and has learned offense coordinator Marty Mornhinweg's new offense.
Like Russell Wilson last year for the Seattle Seahawks, Smith is a young quarterback from outside of the first round trying to defeat an established but not star-level veteran. It is becoming more common for rookies to achieve this type of speedy progress, so this is a real possibility.
Ultimately, it will come down to both Smith and Sanchez because if Sanchez can show improvement in a West Coast offense, he could have a leg up in the competition.
Case 2: Smith Starts Week 2
While it might seem odd to start a rookie quarterback in Week 2, I view this as a real possibility. In the first week of the season the Jets will face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who have retooled their defensive secondary with the acquisition of Darrelle Revis.
There are two reasons starting Smith off against the Buccaneers could be a bad idea.
The first is that starting off a quarterback against such tough competition could be bad for his development. The second reason is that Sanchez has spent literally his entire career facing off against Revis on the practice field. He knows Revis perhaps better than any other quarterback does.
Considering how effective Revis is at capitalizing on the mistakes of young quarterbacks, it might make a lot of sense to use Sanchez in Week 1 and then Smith in Week 2.
In the second week of the season, the Jets face the New England Patriots, a team with a much more porous secondary. Even if Smith proves that he is ready to go this summer, there is a strong chance that he could start in Week 2 rather than Week 1.
Case 3: Smith Starts Midseason
A few years ago, the most likely option would have been for a quarterback like Smith to start in the midseason. It used to be rare for rookie quarterbacks to start right away, and allowing Smith to watch Sanchez for half a year could potentially be very beneficial for him.
This is still a possibility if it turns out that Smith does not seem ready over the summer and needs time to watch Sanchez play. However, with all the positive reports coming out of Jets camp, I view this as an increasingly unlikely possibility. If Smith learns the offense and does not struggle, I do not think the Jets will wait overly long to play him.
Case 4: Unexpected Events
There are a few unexpected events that could occur. Geno Smith could be injured; Mark Sanchez could have a breakout year or one of the other quarterbacks on the team could surprise everyone in the preseason.
Greg McElroy and Matt Simms remain, for better or worse, in the competition.
I do not expect the unexpected. I anticipate that Smith or Sanchez will be the starter in Week 1, and it will boil down to whether or not Smith seems ready to handle the Buccaneers defense.
Adding It Up
Based on what we know now, I'm inclined to think that the first two cases are the likely ones. While it does not seem that there is urgency to start Smith right away, there appears to be a sense that sooner would be better than later.
The early-season schedule is certainly relevant, and Revis can be a nightmare for quarterbacks. Therefore, while I would put Smith's chances of starting in Week 1 at only around 50 percent, I would give him a substantial chance of starting in Week 2.