Different quarterback, but the problems still prevail.
One, it’s too little, too late for the New York Jets.
The other – and more pressing – issue is that starting Geno Smith over Ryan Fitzpatrick doesn’t solve a leaky defense that opposing defenses have embarrassed.
New York is 1-5. The playoffs are almost a near impossibility. Only two teams since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger have clinched a postseason berth after starting 1-5.
New York’s secondary ranks 28th in the NFL with 290.3 passing yards allowed per game. The defensive line, which entered the season hyped as one of the best units in the NFL, has been average, sacking quarterbacks just 12 times – tied for 16th in the league.
ESPN reported Wednesday morning that Smith would become the team’s starter.
Fitzpatrick has completed 57% of his passes for 1,441 yards and just five touchdowns against 11 interceptions this season. He was benched late in Monday night’s 28-3 loss to the Arizona Cardinals.
Jets coach Todd Bowles backed Fitzpatrick immediately after the game, saying, “Fitz will be back next week.” He added: “It definitely wasn’t Fitz’s fault. He barely had any time to throw.”
Bowles backtracked Tuesday afternoon in a conference call with reporters.
“They’re backups for a reason, and if they get a chance to play, they better prove themselves to be worthy of playing,” Bowles said, “regardless of who the person is.”
So what changed? Perhaps the Jets realized – with the postseason almost impossible – that it was time to look to the future.
This is the worst-case, egg-in-the-face scenario for the Jets.
A long, drawn-out negotiation between the Jets and Fitzpatrick this offseason placed high expectations on the veteran after he threw for Jets franchise records in yards (3,905) and touchdowns (31) in 2015. Eventually, the two sides agreed to a one-year, $12 million contract.
Now, it’s a near certainty that Fitzpatrick won’t be back with the Jets next season.
But don’t expect Smith’s leash to be too long.
Smith is playing the final season of his rookie contract. He’s a remnant of the previous regime, so Bowles and general manager Mike Maccagnan have no allegiance to him.
The Jets drafted third-string passer Bryce Petty in the fourth round in 2015, and he has shown improvements throughout his time with the team. But a shoulder injury forced Petty out of practices for much of the first quarter of the season, and he’s still assimilating from the spread offense he ran at Baylor.
He’ll need to get more reps, but it may be a matter of time before Petty gets the nod.
Rookie Christian Hackenberg, a second-round selection in this year’s draft is a project and is still too raw to trot out against NFL defenses.
“It’s possible,” Bowles said Tuesday on that conference call when asked if Petty or Hackenberg could play. “I mean, we still got some stages to go before we get to that point. But it’s definitely possible.”
One of those stages materialized Wednesday when the team benched Fitzpatrick.
So what does this mean for the Jets?
They’re in rebuild mode, and don’t rule out another change this season at quarterback.