What Would a Geno Smith-Led Jets Team Mean for Coach Rex Ryan?

Erik FrenzSenior Writer IAugust 22, 2013

Rex Ryan (above) could spend another year or two on the Jets sideline if Geno Smith is named the starting quarterback.
Rex Ryan (above) could spend another year or two on the Jets sideline if Geno Smith is named the starting quarterback.Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

Geno Smith's job on Saturday night is simple: Don't turn the ball over in your first start as Jets starting quarterback, and that title will be yours for the foreseeable future.

We have no way of knowing whether that will happen, but the Jets could only be so lucky. It would give them the easiest path to deciding on Smith as their quarterback of the future.

A rookie starting quarterback could be exactly what head coach Rex Ryan needs to buy another two years of job security. 

Both Rex and GM John Idzik will have a say in the matter, but from the sound of it, that's the outcome they're hoping will happen. 

Although Smith had been on a two-day rotation with Mark Sanchez for the first-team snaps in practice, the rotation recently changed, with Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News reporting that Geno took reps with the ones for a third consecutive day. Apparently, he looked pretty good doing it, too.

Rex hitched his wagon to the Sanchez train for four straight years—not just in the media, but in ink

It must have been hard for Rex to continue to stick his chin out for his quarterback, through two seasons that included a league-worst 52 turnovers for Sanchez. As a result of his performance, it sure seems like the Jets are keeping him around for monetary reasons. But if there was just some way to eliminate the turnovers, Sanchez might still be an average quarterback in the NFL.

Even this preseason, though, he's continued to prove that while there will always be flashes of brilliance, there will always be moments where Sanchez is as Sanchez does. Little has changed for him since we last saw him in the regular season. The costly turnovers have continued, with a pick-six against the Lions on his third throw of the preseason and an interception in the end zone against the Jaguars.

Now, since it's clear that Sanchez is like the Talking Heads—"same as it ever was"—Geno needs to get his opportunity.

The rookie threw just seven passes in the first preseason game, going 6-of-7 for 47 yards before twisting his ankle. The injury kept him out of the second game, allowing Sanchez plenty of time to go up (3-of-3 with a touchdown pass on the opening drive) and down (the aforementioned end-zone INT).

There could be some growing pains if Geno is named the starting quarterback, but Idzik knows that it sometimes takes a few years to get a team on track. His recent work with the Seattle Seahawks is proof that even when a plan doesn't look like it's working, the pieces may be falling into place for future success.

That being said, a rookie quarterback isn't necessarily an excuse for a lack of success anymore. You don't have to use binoculars to look into the past and find an example of recent success for a team with a rookie quarterback. The Redskins, Colts and Seahawks all made the playoffs last year with rookies at quarterback. The Bengals made the playoffs in Andy Dalton's first year, 2011.

And yes, the Jets made the playoffs in 2009 with the very quarterback they are now trying to replace, when he was a rookie.

If Geno is presumed better (or at least more capable of protecting the football) than Sanchez by the coaching staff and front office, the Jets should be more capable of winning games than they had been while Sanchez was turning it over 52 times from 2011-2012 (1.4 times per game). In those two years, the Jets were 5-2 (.714) when they committed one or no turnovers, and they were 9-16 (.563) when they turned the ball over twice or more.

So, while the rookie could mean a grace period for Rex Ryan, it may also mean a better chance of winning altogether. If that's the case, Rex should have no problem keeping his job beyond 2013.



Erik Frenz is also a Patriots/AFC East writer for Boston.com. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand or via team news releases.