In search of some serviceable competition for current starting quarterback Geno Smith, the New York Jets recently acquired Michael Vick. After a rocky first year, Smith showed hints of impressive play last season in between stints on the bench. When the Jets landed Smith in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft, many thought he would quickly take over for then-starter Mark Sanchez, and become the signal-caller that the team lacked over the previous few seasons.
While Vick signed only a one-year deal, he will hope to become the starter in what might be his last shot at a full-time role in the NFL. But after claiming the starting quarterback position last season, Smith won’t relinquish it freely to the newly-signed Vick. Could a quarterback controversy be on the way in New York? Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley of the AFRO Sports Desk debate the question.
Riley: It would be foolish for the Jets to hand the starting position over to Vick, even if the 11-year veteran might give them the best chance of winning. New York made some bold moves last summer to acquire Smith, including the attempted trade they tried to make on the second day of the NFL Draft. Plus, they endured the scrutiny they knew would follow Smith’s arrival considering Sanchez was the current starter. New York subsequently launched the Smith era before it was ready, but invested their season into the rookie signal-caller out of West Virginia. New York’s season floundered as a result, but a rash of injuries devastated the team as they attempted to break in a rookie quarterback. To merely toss Smith aside and let Vick take the helm places the team at a crossroads. Is Smith the future, or is he another cog in the quarterback assembly line that the Jets have trotted out over the past few years?
Green: If it’s about winning, then Vick should be the named starter before training camp even begins. The Jets haven’t made the playoffs since 2010, and they can’t rely on Smith to figure it out next year with so much at stake. Head coach Rex Ryan’s job will definitely be on the line next season, and when you're playing in New York, there’s no room for errors. Vick has had success in the NFL, and right now, he’s the most qualified quarterback on the roster to turn things around and get the Jets back into the playoffs. Smith might be the future, but Vick is the present.
Riley: The Jets finished 8-8 last year, so it isn’t like Smith’s inaugural year was a flat out disaster. He showed promise, and made a number of good throws to prove he had what it takes. Personally, I’ve never been sold on Smith, but I am a firm believer in making every move count, similar to the game of chess. You can’t draft a quarterback high in the second round, give him the reins as the starter, then yank the duties away from him in his second year when he “should” be making improvements. What was the point in drafting him at all, if that’s the case? New York hasn't made the postseason in years but even if Vick took the helm and the Jets made it next season, how far would this team really go? This team is in no way constructed right now to hoist the Lombardi Trophy, so why stunt Smith’s growth? And with the frequency that Vick gets injured, why subject the team to a rotation at quarterback when it would just hurt the team as well as Smith?
Green: We both know it would be a strange sight to see Geno Smith starting while Michael Vick is on the sidelines holding a clipboard. Let’s just be honest: the best quarterback on this team right now is Vick, and if that equates to Smith taking a step back, then everyone involved should be fine with that. Maybe the Jets did throw Smith into the fire too early last year; well, here’s the chance to make amends and let the second-year pro learn from a longtime veteran. Smith’s rookie season was ugly. He threw 21 interceptions to just 12 touchdowns. Vick has never come close to throwing 20 interceptions in his entire career. Vick has the better arm, has better mobility, and is even a better leader in the locker room than Smith. An NFL team has to play the quarterback that gives them the best chance for victory. At this point, Vick is clearly that option.