When Geno Smith threw a 22-yard touchdown to Ben Obomanu in the first quarter of Saturday's preseason game against the Giants, his probability of winning the Jets' starting quarterback job seemed overwhelming.
The Jets front office seems to clearly want the rookie to win, the team gave him the start in the third preseason game to win the job. Basically, all Smith had to do was not screw it up.
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After the touchdown, Smith was like a golfer with a six-stroke lead on the final round's back nine. And his first interception was a too-aggressive shot into the water. And his second interception was a wayward shot onto the cart path. By the time he threw his third horrible interception, he practically signed an incorrect scorecard.
And if that wasn't bad enough, in the second half, with the Jets backed up at their 1-yard line, Smith channeled his inner Dan Orlovsky and showing a painful lack of awareness, ran out of the back of the end zone out of bounds for a safety. That was Smith's last play before Mark Sanchez came in.
Smith was handed the starting job on a silver platter, and he threw up all over the platter.
But then, just when it seemed Sanchez might win by default, he took a huge blow from Giants defensive lineman Marvin Austin and left the game clutching the area near his right shoulder.
Smith's three first-half interceptions might force the Jets to go with Sanchez (if healthy) in Week 1, or lose all credibility in the locker room. You can't call it a quarterback competition, then hand it over to a rookie who had 14 snaps in the first preseason game before spraining his ankle, and then threw three first-half interceptions in his next preseason action.
It was clear when general manager John Idzik undercut coach Rex Ryan and said publicly that he would have a lot of input in picking the starter that the front office didn't want Ryan going with the safe choice in Sanchez. Sanchez is probably Ryan's best shot at a decent season so he can keep his job another year. And Sanchez has also made some bad mistakes this preseason. But he has also done some good things.
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Smith had some decent moments himself on Saturday, as he finished 16-of-30 for 199 yards. On his touchdown, he was protected well and showed good patience to hit Obomanu on the correct read.
The night went downhill from there. Interception No. 1 was thrown well behind his receiver. The second one was sailed way over any receiver's head to Giants safety Stevie Brown. On the third, he never saw defensive end Justin Tuck drop back into coverage on the snap. The rookie didn't see too many complicated defenses when he was playing at West Virginia.
Smith rebounded a bit after the interceptions, completing three passes for 50 yards on a touchdown drive to start the second half. Maybe that, and the early touchdown, will give the Jets enough justification to hand Smith the starting job. Or maybe Sanchez's injury will keep him out a while. It'll be hard to just gloss over the ugliness of Smith's three first-half interceptions and running out of the end zone for a safety, however.
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