COMMENTARY | We're in a bit of an awkward spot when we look at the New York Jets.
This was supposed to be easy--after Mark Sanchez got hurt, rookie Geno Smith was handed the reins and it should've been that simple, right? Unfortunately, nothing quite goes how it's supposed to with gang green.
On one hand we have a quarterback who can't seem to stop making critical mistakes, going on all four games. The fact that New York won games masked some of the young quarterback's miscues. Sunday in Tennessee, Geno's growing pains were on full display as he turned the ball over four times, including two interceptions. That ties Smith and Eli Manning for the most turnovers for a quarterback with eleven--eight of them interceptions. The offensive line didn't give him the best protection with him being knocked all over the field and sacked five times, but that can't be the excuse as Smith outright cost the Jets the game from the opening minute.
At first it wasn't a big deal. Geno's mistakes were mostly of the physical variety; like those three ducks he threw in the rain at Foxboro. Those passes weren't necessarily bad ideas, just bad throws. What allowed us to live with Smith's mistakes was simple: New York won two games. Plus, Geno showed flashes of what it takes to be a quarterback in today's NFL.
Most of Sanchez's mistakes, which Jet fans rightfully could no longer watch, were mental. Physical mistakes from someone not used to the competition level are one thing, but it was the mental aspect Sanchez couldn't handle. If nothing else it seemed that Smith had the mindset to play the position, even if he needed work in the physical end.
After the beating the Jets took Sunday, there's more concern going around Jets nation. Smith took only 46 seconds to throw an interception. That was physical. He followed that up with a nice scramble but held onto the ball like a loaf of bread and got stripped in his own end. The turnover show was capped off with a butt-fumble sequel that featured Geno doing his best Magic Johnson impression on his own goal line.
Fumble…touchdown Titans. Lack of awareness in your own end zone and not protecting the football in the open field are mental mistakes. Smith's four turnovers turned into 28 Tennessee points.
We have the right to say: how long do we watch while winnable games are flushed down the toilet? Well, hold the phone.
The other side is one that many have looked at up until this point. Geno has played four games total and something of this nature was to be expected. Still not an excuse, just a matter of fact. We've been spoiled recently with rookie quarterbacks jumping in to set the league ablaze with instant success. The fact remains that realistically, rookies cost you games in the NFL.
Mix that in while remembering Geno barely had a preseason due to injury and is still getting his NFL legs under him. Most felt that once Sanchez got hurt it was time to see what Smith was and if it would be time to draft another QB next year. Well, nobody looking from this view is even saying he's the guy, but making a drastic judgment would be an overreaction because it's impossible to judge somebody on 25% of their first season.
I'll say I'm a supporter of Geno keeping his job and trudging through his mistakes to hopefully find some light at the end of the tunnel; to learn from them and hopefully see the progress that can help this football team be a winner with strong defense and efficient QB play. The way it was at the onset of Rex Ryan's tenure.
With that said, both sides hold validity. Rookie or not, mistakes like the ones we saw on Sunday are unacceptable as this team moves forward. Even without the most talented supporting cast, visible improvement needs to be seen and it's not coming with three turnovers per game. Nobody wins in this league turning the ball over.
The consensus seems to be some Jet fans don't know quite how to feel. Is the waiting time for Geno to possibly come around worth it?
Before the season, most fans and media alike determined they'd be willing to see what we had in Smith throughout the year. Four weeks into the season that mindset can't change without compromising everything we said and thought a month ago.
What it comes down to is wins and losses. At this point, New York is 2-2, albeit with two ugly wins. Facts are that if you asked fans before the season if they would take that .500 mark after four games with a new offensive coordinator and rookie QB, many would've signed up for it in a heartbeat.
Lack of awareness and recklessness with the football can't be tolerated, but each situation lends itself to its own circumstances and there isn't enough that says he can't or won't improve. With the right mind and work with his offense, how can we deny that after only four games? Smith isn't absolved for his transgressions; it's just a way of measuring where we're at.
It's worth noting that if Geno was flat out awful with no upside this wouldn't even be an argument. It's the fact that we see the NFL arm, mobility, confidence and positive attitude that drives fans insane. The blemish is the costly turnovers. But for a team who was supposed to be rebuilding, there are enough positives to continue with him at this point.
The key has to be that this team is still in a better spot than anyone anticipated and if this was set to be a "see what you have" season, patience has to be the prevailing thought.
The Jets are 2-2 with question marks, but 2-2 nonetheless. This Jets season still needs to be shaped with the legs and right arm of No. 7.
Brian Sausa is a Queens, New York native and has previously covered a variety of NY area teams for New York Sports World as well as the New York Knicks on Yahoo. He is also an Intern in the UAlbany Sports Information Department. Twitter @BrianSausa
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