Geno Can’t Catch a Break

It is no secret that I am Jets fan. In that position, I’ve watched Geno Smith in the Jets organization since his first day. I didn’t like the pick when he was selected in the second round. Smith was part of one of the worst quarterback drafts of all-time. To name a few, E.J. Manuel, Smith, Ryan Nassib, Matt Barkley, Landry Jones and Mike Glennon were the more notable players selected.

Geno Smith
Smith has thrown 28 touchdowns and 36 interceptions. (Wikimedia Commons)

Smith got off to a solid start in 2013, he got the starting job after Mark Sanchez went down with a major shoulder injury in the preseason. New York alternated wins and losses through their first nine games. Losing three in a row knocked them out of the playoff conversation, but winning three of their final four got the Jets to 8-8 under Smith as a rookie. It was not a great statistical year from him, but it was a starting point.

2014 ended up being a nightmare. The Jets ended up 4-12, Smith only played in 14 games. He cut down on interceptions and improved his completion percentage, but he only threw 13 touchdowns in 14 games played. Rex Ryan was fired at the end of the year, as was general manager John Idzik. There were concerns over Smith’s development and a new coach would mean some possible shake ups.

During the 2015 offseason, the Jets traded for Ryan Fitzpatrick. What many forget is that Fitz was supposed to be the backup for the 2015 season. New head coach Todd Bowles and new general manager Mike McCagnan backed Smith to be the starter for the season. They wanted to give Smith a chance to develop even more and see what they had in him before they started looking elsewhere.

That August though, IK Enempali punched Smith in the face in the locker room following a practice. Smith broke his jaw and would miss 6-10 weeks of the season. That opened the door for Fitzpatrick to take the starting job, and Fitz ended up throwing a franchise record 31 touchdowns. Heading into 2016, there was no way that Smith had a shot at the starting job.

Until he did. Fitzpatrick leads the league in interceptions and the Jets brass decided to give Smith a shot. He lasted about two quarters before he suffered an odd knee injury on a sack. It turns out that he tore his ACL, which ended his season. Smith is set to be a free agent at the end this season.

Geno Smith
Smith is 12-18 as a starter for the Jets. (Wikimedia Commons)

He had a shot finally to show everyone what he had learned in his year plus on the bench, only to have it all vanish just as quick as it came. The likelihood is that Smith will never get a chance to start anywhere now. He seems destined to be a career backup, holding the clipboard as the emergency fill in if someone is injured.

I was never a big fan of Geno Smith, but you have to wonder if the league never saw the best version of him. He was thrust into the starting role before he was ready and forced to learn NFL defenses on the job. He showed some signs of improvement from his first season to his second. We never got a chance to see what might have been with Smith if he was given just a little more time to develop on the bench, or if a team had stayed with him as their starter for a few seasons.

Honestly, he probably never would have turned into a Pro Bowl-caliber player, but he might have been an average quarterback. Being remembered as alright is a whole lot more fun than being thought of as a bust. If Smith never starts another NFL game in his life, then he will undoubtedly go down as one.

Smith probably doesn’t deserve another chance based on his previous body of work, but based on how the last two seasons have gone for him, you can’t help but wish he didn’t have to go out this way.

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Bradford wants out of Philly

The Eagles are shocked that after trading up for the second overall pick to take a quarterback, signing Chase Daniel to a reasonably large contract for his stature and failing to pay him, Sam Bradford would like to leave Philadelphia.

Sam Bradford
Bradford threw 19 touchdowns and 14 interceptions in 2015.

Chip Kelly brought Bradford to the City of Brotherly love and now that Kelly is in San Francisco, the Eagles want to head in a different direction. Bradford is injury prone and did not have a great season last year. Yet for some reason they resigned him. Now he is demanding a trade.

For Bradford, this makes sense. He has no desire to be a back up or have a time clock set on how much longer he could stay with the team. He clearly doesn’t like the idea of having his replacement waiting in the wings. It doesn’t reflect very well on his personality, but you have to understand him wanting to skip town.

Let’s break down the teams that could try to negotiate a trade for Bradford.

New York Jets
Probability: High
Bradford is probably a step backwards from having Ryan Fitzpatrick, with the latter having played in the system last year and knowing the team, but Bradford would fill a need. If the Jets are unsuccessful in signing Fitzpatrick, trading for Bradford might be the next best option. Bradford would have the chance to compete with Geno Smith for the starting role. Bradford’s short contract also allows the Jets to move on from him fairly quickly. The likelihood is Bradford is no one’s long term solution at quarterback.

Chip_Kelly
The Eagles fired Kelly back in December.

San Francisco 49ers
Probability: Medium
Well, as I mentioned before, Bradford does have some ties to new San Francisco head coach Chip Kelly. The 49ers currently have a couple of quarterbacks on their roster, but rumor has it that Colin Kaepernick wants a change in scenery and Blaine Gabbert likely isn’t the quarterback San Francisco wants to invest its future in. Bringing in Bradford would give someone for Gabbert to compete with and allow the 49ers to move on from Kaepernick. Again, it does not solve the long term quarterback issue, but it certainly makes the present a bit better.

Denver Broncos
Probability: High

John Elway already traded for one Eagles quarterback this offseason, why not another? This trade probably won’t happen if only because Denver does not have the money or doesn’t want another Philly castoff, but from the standpoint of filling a need, it makes a lot of sense. Bradford could fit well into a run-heavy scheme and he would not be required to put up huge numbers with the defense he would have in Denver. The Broncos are a team that has a championship-caliber roster, minus the quarterback. Bradford might be just good enough to keep Denver’s hopes of repeating alive.

Drew_Brees
Brees’ cap hit for 2016 is $30 million, which is the largest of any player.

New Orleans Saints
Probability: Low
This one might sound a little bizarre, but hear me out. The Saints have Drew Brees under contract through this season and then he becomes a free agent. His cap figure is currently the highest in the NFL, so New Orleans would probably like to find a cheaper option. Enter Bradford in 2017. He spends a year on the bench, learning the system and the personnel before taking over as the starter. The Saints do have last year’s third round pick Garrett Grayson on the roster still, but if New Orleans isn’t sold on him, Bradford would be a good option. He would need to take a pay cut this year to make it work, but long term, this might be a good solution for Bradford.

Buffalo Bills
Probability: Low
These two teams already have a good relationship after working out a major deal last year to swap Kiko Alonso and LeSean McCoy. Maybe they will pull off another deal. No one is sure if Tyrod Taylor is the long term answer at quarterback. He and E.J Manuel are set to be free agents after next season. That could open the door again for a situation similar to what could happen in New Orleans. Bradford would be able to learn the system and compete with Taylor for the starting job. If he doesn’t get it, then he could take over the following season.

The Jets need to Resign Fitzpatrick

It’s time to give up the act and end the stalemate. The New York Jets need to suck up their pride and find a way to give Ryan Fitzpatrick a better offer than the one that they have laid out before him right now.

Ryan Fitzpatrick
Fitzpatrick played for the Rams, Bengals, Bills, Titans and Texans before joining the Jets.

Now it doesn’t need to be much more than what they have already offered, which is reportedly around $8 million a year for the next three years. Bumping up the offer to more of a middle ground number is something New York has to do.

There are a number of reason why. First and foremost, this guy just had one of the greatest seasons in franchise history. Fitzmagic broke the single season record for passing touchdowns and came close to the yardage record as well ranking second all in team history.

Fitz has his drawbacks for sure, in the number of interceptions he’s thrown, his rep as a journey man and his inability to come up big when the team needed him to in Week 17 against Buffalo last year, but the Jets have to look past all of that.

For the first time in a long time, Gang Green has a positive locker room vibe going. There is a lot of chemistry among this group of guys. That includes Fitzpatrick even though he isn’t officially under contract. Just Tuesday night, a video surfaced on Instagram of the bearded signal caller hanging out with Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker, Nick Mangold and Bryce Petty at Madison Square Garden for the Rangers and Penguins playoff game. That kind of comradery is not something that gets formed overnight.

In Fitz, the Jets would get a guy who clearly likes the talent he has around him and has a great relationship with his potential replacement in Petty. He has shown signs of wanting to mentor the former Baylor quarterback.

Many seem to have forgotten the uncertainty of the NFL draft, as fans and analysts peg the Jets to take any one of a number of quarterbacks in the first two rounds. However, drafting a rookie is a huge unknown and New York doesn’t exactly have the best track record for drafting quarterbacks. There is no guarantee that Fitzpatrick will replicate his production from last season, but he is much more of a sure thing than any rookie the Jets could draft.

And then if they want to entertain the laughable notion of signing another quarterback via free agency, New York kind of has slim pickings. Brian Hoyer reportedly visited yesterday, but he is just as much of a journeyman and his playoff performance against Kansas City was less than reassuring. There is always Johnny Manziel, or of course Matt Flynn. How about Tim Tebow? Point is, there isn’t a great plan B.

In a league where guys as average as Joe Flacco get paid $22 million a year, I don’t see why the Jets are so concerned with paying a guy who put up comparable stats about half of that. Upping the offer to around $11 million shouldn’t break the bank.

If Mike Maccagnan and Todd Bowles about making the playoffs and competing at a high level this season, they need to have the quarterback position solved. Geno Smith is not the answer and Petty is nowhere near ready right now. Especially with a difficult schedule, bringing back Fitzpatrick is the only way the Jets can hope to stay afloat this season.

Blessing in disguise

As a fan, you never hope to see a player injured. Well at least you shouldn’t. However, Jets fans probably feel a slight sigh of relief knowing that they do not have to watch Geno Smith under center again for the next 6-10 weeks. On the surface, this seems like a real issue for the Jets. But when you dig a little deeper, things start to look pretty good actually.

Geno Smith
Smith’s injury require surgery and he will miss the rest of the preseason, along with anywhere from 2-6 weeks of the regular season.

Smith is out those 6-10 weeks due to a broken jaw he sustained when he was “sucker-punched” in the locker room by a teammate. That sounds like a discipline problem that would be rampant under Rex Ryan. However, Todd Bowles already took care of the issue by swiftly cutting IK Enemkpali, a 2014 sixth round draft pick, who wasn’t expected to make the team anyway. So the guy who caused the problem is already gone. It wasn’t a starter on either side of the ball or someone who the Jets had high hopes for. That certainly makes the problem a lot more manageable.

As for replacing Geno, the Jets already have a contingency plan in place. Ryan Fitzpatrick was brought in the offseason to offer some competition for Smith and will now step into the starting role. Many feel that Fitzpatrick is more suited for the starting job anyway. He showed flashes of brilliance last year, including a six-touchdown performance against Tennessee, while playing for the Texans. He also knows the offense that Smith was attempting to learn for the first time. Fitzpatrick played under now Jets offensive coordinator Chan Gailey when he was the head coach in Buffalo. He ran the system for a few years and is very familiar with both the terminology and mindset. Fitzpatrick made his only Pro Bowl playing in that offense. Now, it is a bit much to start expecting a Pro Bowl year out of Fitzpatrick but he should be an immediate upgrade over the incumbent Smith given his prior experience.

Ryan_Fitzpatrick
Fitzpatrick playing last season in Houston. The Texans were 6-6 in games he started.

For management, this opens a previously unforeseen door. This situation should pan out a lot like the Mark Sanchez situation when Smith joined the team as a rookie. Sanchez injured his shoulder late in the preseason and subsequently missed the entire year. That allowed Geno to take over the starting job and the Jets to cut Sanchez when they thought they had a better option in Smith. Additionally, the Jets are able to see what Fitzpatrick can do in this offense. If he excels, the Jets can release Smith and roll with Fitzpatrick under center until rookie Bryce Petty is ready to take over the gig. If Fitzpatrick struggles, then the Jets can turn the offense back over to Geno when he is healthy. This allow New York to see what they have in Fitzpatrick without having to pull the rug out from underneath Smith. It won’t be awkward either to put Smith in either now if Fitzpatrick struggles because he never started previously. Overall, this situation definitely works out in the Jets’ favor.

I’m sure the coaching staff will maintain that they really saw a lot in Smith and were eager to see him start this season but he has two years of mediocre play in his past already that doesn’t promise much. Smith ranked 25th in Total QBR a season ago, tied with Kyle Orton. In 30 career games played, he has thrown for only 5,571 yards with a 6.88 yard per attempt rate. His completion percentage is a lowly 57.5 and he has thrown nine more interceptions than touchdowns. Smith had his few bright spots in his play, namely against Atlanta in 2013 and Miami at the end of last season, but on the whole he has been one of the five worst starting quarterbacks in the league. He would have to make massive strides to get himself on par with even an average NFL quarterback.

Now with Smith out, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Jets target another quarterback, like Matt Flynn, in case Fitzpatrick gets hurt. The latter did miss the final four games of the season with a torn pectoral muscle last year. The Jets want to avoid putting Petty into game action at all costs so finding another suitable backup will be a priority.

Smith’s career is all but over in New York. This injury is a blessing in disguise. It allows the new regime to find a quarterback they selected to start. It may also be a blessing for Geno. All of the reports this offseason have indicated that this was a great camp for him. With no evidence so far to prove otherwise, that means Smith might draw some interest from other clubs if he is released from New York. He would be a project player but because Smith never had a chance to play, he will be an unknown commodity. That usually isn’t a good thing but it certainly beats out being a proven failure, which Smith would have been had he blown yet another chance in New York. When all is said in done, I think this will settle well for everyone. Now, to go send IK Enempalki a thank you card….

Processing the NFL’s crazy 24 hours

Everyone new that the start of the new league year was sure to bring some fireworks. I don’t think anyone saw that coming though. We are only a little over 24 hours into the 2015 NFL league year and the chaos is only now beginning to subside. We saw the Seahawks land the highest paid tight end in history. Darrelle Revis rejoined his old team for a small fortune. The Eagles continued to wheel and deal under Chip Kelly. Even Ryan Fitzpatrick changed teams (wait that happens pretty much every offseason). Time to take a second look at some of the teams involved in the fray after the dust has started to settle.

Winners:
This does not mean these teams won free agency, which, according to Michael Schottey of Bleacher Report, may not really matter. Either way, these are the teams who are in the best shape following the first day of signings.

Seattle Seahawks: No matter what you give up, getting arguably the best tight end in the NFL is a good deal. The Seahawks did give up All-Pro center Max Unger and their first round pick, but centers tend to be easier to replace than tight ends and with an historically week tight end class scheduled to hit the NFL next year, this was a good move. The Seahawks really need to work to rebuild that offensive line as both Unger and Carpenter are in new homes heading into next year. Still, for the defending NFC champions, this makes Russell Wilson even more deadly. Bringing in Cary Williams as a nickel corner doesn’t hurt either.

New York Jets: It is hard to look at the Jets and not think that this team looks infinitely better than it did on Sunday. The Jets have shelled out a lot of picks and money to do so but New York has made major strides in its rebuilding process. The secondary immediately becomes one of the best in the league signing Revis and Buster Skrine. The offense looks a lot better with the addition of Brandon Marshall. James Carpenter could prove to be an asset as well. The Jets were also smart to release Percy Harvin rather than give him the $10.5 million he was due. Bringing in Ryan Fitzpatrick is an upgrade over Geno Smith, especially under Chan Gailey. There is still more work to be done but the change is drastic.

St. Louis Rams: Sam Bradford and his mega contract is gone. In return, the Rams now have Nick Foles suiting up. Both of these players are coming off of injuries but you would have to imagine that Foles is in much better shape. Bradford tore his ACL for the second straight season while Foles broke his collarbone. The Rams also managed to avoid giving up anything more than a fourth round pick this year. They might potentially lose a second rounder next year if Foles meets certain criteria but as a Rams fan, I am much happier having Foles as my prospective starter.

Losers

Philadelphia Eagles: On one hand, I look at the Eagles defense and I am impressed with how much better it looks now. Signing Byron Maxwell, Walter Thurmond and trading for Kiko Alonso will do that for you. However, I flip to the offensive side of the ball and I cringe. The Eagles are now without their starting quarterback, running back or leading receiver from a season ago. Pair that with Todd Herremanns leaving for Indianapolis and the Eagles have a lot of holes to fill. Signing Ryan Matthews could be the answer at running back but he is very injury prone, as is new quarterback Sam Bradford. Chip Kelly has taken the couple of questions surrounding Philadelphia and multiplied them ten-fold.

Denver Broncos: The Broncos did not make any splash signings and no one really expected them too. But the players they let walk away really hurt. Denver lost starting tackle Orlando Franklin to the division rival Chargers. Terrance Knighton also informed the Broncos that he would not be returning next year. Couple those two departures with Julius Thomas signing with Jacksonville and suddenly the Broncos are down three starters from 2014. With Nate Irving and Rahim Moore still unsigned, the Broncos could lose a few more starters before free agency is all said and done.

Indianapolis Colts: Indy has spent a combine total of $64.2 million on four players. The average age of those four players is roughly 32. These players all have big names but none of them are likely to make the impact the Colts are paying for. Andre Johnson is not going to return to Pro Bowl form any time soon. Neither is Frank Gore. Kendall Langford is a nice addition to the defensive line but pairing Trent Cole across from Rasheed Mathis give the Colts one of the oldest starting outside linebacker duos. With better players available, the Colts could have found a way to spend this money a little more wisely.

Free agency is far from over but after the first day or so of player signings, mixed with all of the crazy trades, this how the league appears to be trending. Some other things to note would if Oakland lands DeMarco Murray, the free agent class suddenly looks much better. New England will once again sit out on over spending for free agents, but don’t be surprised to see a trade involving the Patriots to surface. Lastly, the Saints have actually set themselves up fairly well for the coming future but their moves in the coming days will dictate whether or not this can continue to be a successful offseason. I will definitely be back with more in the coming days as more agents begin to sign.