When word came out on Friday that the New York Jets were on the verge of signing Michael Vick, I thought to myself here we go again. The organization is two years removed from one of the craziest quarterback controversies in some time and now they are about to embark on another one. This move raises more questions than answers.
The Jets have made moves of late that just make you shake your head. When they signed Tim Tebow two years ago, most real fans and virtually all sports writers thought that they were nuts. Yes, they needed a reliable signal caller to back up and even perhaps challenge the incumbent Mark Sanchez. Many were of the mindset that Tebow wasn’t the answer and that the Jets wanted the publicity that the former college phenom brought. Some saw this as an opportunity to steal the back pages from the then defending champions and MetLife Stadium co-tenants, the New York Giants, and/or sell t-shirts or jerseys.
As it turned out, the skeptics were right. From the beginning of training camp, it was obvious that Tebow could not make the standard throws and the Jets would have to change their whole offense in order to incorporate Tebow’s unique skill-set into their game plan. Yes, he enjoyed some success in Denver, but that was helped by a tremendous running game and an even better defense. He had all of the intangibles but not the necessary tangibles. Two things were obvious regarding the Tebow experiment; the kid lacked what it took to be a successful quarterback in the NFL and the Jets had no clue on how to take advantage of his unique skill set.
Many believed, including yours truly, that Tebow’s presence cast a cloud over Sanchez’ psyche. Thi not only stunted the former USC quarterback’s growth, but ruined his confidence.
Some say that the Jets are going down the same road with the Vick signing where it may stunt the growth of the incumbent quarterback Geno Smith, who is coming off of a roller coaster of a rookie year. I’m of the opinion that bringing in Vick raises the question on whether the Jets feel that Smith is their quarterback of future. Smith’s inaugural NFL campaign was nothing to write home about. He showed some flashes of brilliance but he also made plays that made you scratch your head. In essence, he had a typical rookie year at any position, nevertheless quarterback. Smith’s biggest problem was that he did not match initial success that Russell Wilson, Robert Griffin, III and Andrew Luck experienced during their rookie years. Wilson’s, Griffin’s and Luck’s first year achievements skewed the scales for all rookie quarterbacks that will follow them.
Since Smith did not light up the NFL from the jump, does it surprise you that the Jets went out and signed a back quarterback who is looking for a place to start? Jets Head Coach Rex Ryan, who is on the hot seat, has never really endorsed Smith as the club’s bonifide starter and stated that he is looking forward to a nice competition in training camp for the leading role. After his signing, Vick said all of the right things. “As of now, Geno is the starting quarterback for this football team,” he said in a conference call with reporters. “From this point on, we’re going to compete every day.” Clearly the ex-Philadelphia Eagle and Atlanta Falcon is thinking that he can snatch the starting position from Smith. Do you think that despite all of his fault, a healthy Michael Vick is going to sit behind Geno Smith?
The Jets are bringing in one of the most electric and dynamic players of this generation. Since 2010, Vick owns the 11th-highest quarterbac rating. He is still capable of turning a busted play into a highlight reel. All he wants is a shot to show the world that he can still lead a team to victory. The only two questions one might have regarding Vick pertain to him making the right call in pressure situations and his ability to stay healthy for an entire season.
Since he joined Philadelphia after serving his sentence for the dog abuse charges, he has wowed the Eagles fans as well as disappointed them. He will throw for three touchdowns and scramble for several first downs in the first three quarters of a game and then cough the ball up or throw into triple coverage committing a costly turnover that results in his team losing the game in the final quarter. Vick giveths and he takeths away, all in the same game.
And we are not going to bring up the fact that Vick can’t stay on the field. He has only made it through an entire NFL season where he has played in all sixteen games twice. Coaches value availability more than they appreciate talent. All of the talent and experience in the world will not serve a coach any good if the player spends more time in the training room’s hot tub than on the field of play.
This is why I like the signing. If Vick beats out Smith during training camp, the young quarterback can sit back and learn from the crafty veteran, especially considering the mistakes Vick has made on and off-of-the field. Now if Smith goes into the tank because of Vick’s presence, then he does not have the mental state of mind or the fight needed to be an NFL caliber quarterback. It is better to find out early in his career then three or four years down the road.
In the irony of ironies, guess who the Eagles are looking at this week? They are bringing in Mr. Sanchez for a look-see. That would be something if the Eagles sign Sanchez after we end up with Vick. It will look like the two teams made a trade for their beleaguered signal callers. You can’t make this up.
This has the chance to be a win-win situation for the organization. If Smith beats out Vick at least we know we have a serviceable quarterback to back up the second-year pro. If Vick wins the job over Smith, then Smith will have a good mentor for a year or two and then assume the starting position in the not-so –distant future where he is not thrown to the dogs, no pun intended, right away. Moreover, if Smith can’t handle the demotion, at least we know what we are dealing with and the organization can make future plans accordingly. No one knows for sure how this will play out. The one thing that we know for sure is that the Jets love a quarterback controversy.