COMMENTARY | I've said it before, I'll say it again: This year's NFL draft is the most important one facing the New York Jets franchise since 2006.
To save the franchise, the team must avoid temptation and leave West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith sitting in the green room of Radio City Music Hall.
Numerous draftnicks have pegged the Jets as a potential landing spot for the so-called best quarterback in this draft class, picking up on the team's obvious need for a future signal caller. The team has scouted Smith, even working him out at the team's facilities. Let's hope it's all for show, or to draw interest from a team below them in the pecking order.
Gimmick. Overhyped. Lacking football savvy, work habits and focus. Those aren't my words; those were from the scouting report of Geno Smith by draft expert Nolan Nawrocki. Those aren't the qualities of a leader. Now, that's only one person's opinion, you say. But that's one longtime and well-respected opinion, and no quarterback who wants to be selected in the first round should ever have his character questioned. Heck, even NFL.com puts Smith on par with … Jason Campbell. Ouch.
Some argue in favor of Smith, using his statistics. OK, let's look at his body of work. First, throw away 2011. Playing against Big East opponents can tend to inflate your stats. Look at 2012: After a six-game winning streak to start the season -- when Geno Smith was everyone's Heisman Trophy favorite after playing teams like James Madison University, Marshall and Baylor -- his team went on to lose six of its next eight games. He became average against better opponents. Average doesn't cut it in the NFL, especially not for a first-round pick.
The reasons to bypass Smith aren't just limited him. This pick isn't made in a vacuum; there's a host of problems that trickle down the roster -- and through the franchise -- with his selection.
The Jets are protecting Mark Sanchez, at all costs. Grabbing Smith -- or any other quarterback -- in the first round (probably any round, considering the circumstances surrounding the Jets' quarterback situation) would paint a huge bullseye on Mark Sanchez's back. And that's not something this organization has been apt to do.
From Day 1, fans would clamor for Sanchez to be benched. The Jets had the chance to bring in established quarterbacks this offseason that could have pushed Sanchez -- either for the starting job or to become a better quarterback. Kevin Kolb, Carson Palmer, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Matt Cassel, Matt Flynn and others were all available this offseason, through trade or free agency. Instead, the Jets protected their incumbent quarterback's fragile ego and signed David Garrard to play backup. Make no mistake: This is Sanchez's team this season. After this season, everything is fair game, especially since Sanchez's ludicrous contract becomes non-guaranteed.
Franchise instability creates problems. There's also the question of whether head coach Rex Ryan will be in the New Meadowlands following the 2013-14 campaign. If not, the Jets will be searching for a new regime, one that may not be fond of Geno Smith and his abilities. You draft a quarterback when you have a future; the Jets' future is anything but clear.
Um, have you seen the roster? Drafting Smith doesn't solve some of the major problems this team faces. The lack of a pass rush, the sieve that is the offensive line, the non-skill at the skill positions -- all of these problems remain. Smith isn't transforming this franchise from doormat to playoff contender the way Robert Griffin III did for the Washington Redskins last season. Choosing Smith means you're missing out on quality players that have higher grades and more long-term potential.
Quarterback Class of 2014 will be better. Finally, as stated earlier, you draft Smith for the future. But that also limits you the following year. This team isn't a playoff team; it's a rebuilding team. It's likely the Jets will once again be selecting in the top 10 of the 2014 NFL draft, and -- if the team is smart and builds it foundation during this draft -- they can look at the 2014 quarterback class, one that could include the likes of Heisman winner Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater, Aaron Murray, David Fales and others.
There's really no scenario where selecting Smith ends well. So Jets brass, do the right thing: Avoid Geno Smith. At all costs. Otherwise, you're just creating more headaches and heartaches.
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James Moffat has 10-plus years of journalism expertise, writing for daily print and online publications.
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