New York Jets  

 

Jets will give Geno Smith fair chance to prove he's worthy starter

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The New York Jets made a quarterback switch this week, benching incumbent starter Ryan Fitzpatrick and inserting embattled backup Geno Smith. Smith finally gets the chance he has quietly and not-so-quietly longed for.

So what should we expect from the former second-round draft pick?

Jets coach Todd Bowles will give Smith a fair chance to keep the job and show what he can do, sources informed of the situation said. So don't expect a short leash for the player who hasn't started since he was nearly perfect to end 2014.

The team is 1-5, expectations haven't been met and Fitzpatrick has struggled from the outset. After a drama-filled contract statement this offseason, the player the Jets ended up signing was the same player some believe is the main reason they are flailing. In truth, there has been dissatisfaction with Fitzpatrick's play for some time.

Which is why, though players such as Brandon Marshall have been vocal supporters of Fitzpatrick, the Jets seem to have taken the QB change in stride -- and many of the players are hopeful the switch will spark the team.

For Smith, it marks a key point in a tumultuous few years. He was the presumptive starter in the 2015 offseason before IK Enemkpali punched him in the face and prevented him from challenging for the starting job. Then, as the offseason contract situation with Fitzpatrick played out, Smith acted as the starter.

When Fitz signed, there was plenty of angst. Smith wanted to be traded and told many close to him he wanted out of New York. There was an explorative effort to gauge his market, while teams who at that point needed quarterbacks -- like the Vikings -- preferred Bryce Petty.

Meanwhile, the Jets heard rumblings but never seriously considered it. Nor, did Smith make the official request. The team felt they would need Smith in the event Fitz faltered.

Smith stayed on the roster, sucked it up and waited.

He played well in training camp, and those who studied him said he played to a virtual dead-heat with Fitzpatrick. It was Fitz's job -- until Bowles made the call after watching tape to make a change. Meanwhile, Petty is practicing and gaining back his strength after a shoulder injury. If Smith isn't up to par, expect him to see time, as well.

Asked about the move this week, Jets owner Woody Johnson told me "the coach made the decision and I back him 100 percent.

"We're trying to win games here. He's been making good choices," Johnson said. "He think this will accomplish that objection. ... The season goes through, you constantly adjust the team. You don't generally adjust the QB as much, but in this case, the coach made the decision and I'm behind him 100 percent."

Asked if it's not ideal to have to bench a starter like Fitzpatrick who was just paid a $12-million contract, Johnson said, "We'll see. It could end up being ideal. Todd is making the decisions in the best interests of the football, and I trust Todd and (general manager) Mike Maccagnan."

Follow Ian Rapoport on Twitter @RapSheet.

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