One minute, the freefalling New York Jets plan to stick with equally freefalling starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Because when you hold up your entire organization all offseason and into training camp for a beard like that, what else are you going to do?
But the next minute, not so fast. Jets Coach Todd Bowles, who said he’d stay with Fitzpatrick in the aftermath of Monday night’s brutal 28-3 loss to the Arizona Cardinals, doubled back on Tuesday, lending credence to the idea that former starter, current backup and one-time punching bag Geno Smith could very well make the start Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens.
First, Bowles told the assembled media that “Fitz will be back next week. Fitz is our starter,” after yanking Fitzpatrick from the game against the Cardinals following a 16 for 31, 174-yard performance that included his league-leading 11th interception. Then, after informing the Jets’ media corps that he’d since met with his staff and General Manager Mike Maccagnan, he shifted course, saying that he’d “revisited” his decision, and noting that Smith, who was 4 of 6 for 31 yards and an interception in relief on Monday night, “did show some promise when he was in there,” and “understood the game plan and he did good for that drive he was in there.”
Sounds like a bit of damning with faint praise. But honestly, what else can the Jets do at this point? They are in the basement of the AFC East at 1-5 and while their schedule eases up a bit the next few weeks after the bloodbath of the first six games (Bengals, at Bills, at Chiefs, Seahawks, at Steelers, at Cardinals) with games against the Browns and Rams, they still have two division games each with the Dolphins and Patriots and a rematch with resurgent Buffalo. There’s room for them to make a move to escape the bottom of the division with that slate but given the way they’ve played, making a major change could be the only way to wiggle out of their current predicament. Fitzpatrick was good last year (59 percent completions, 3,905 yards, 31 TDs, 15 INTs, 88 passer rating). But the contract stalemate between him and the Jets that lasted until near the end of summer robbed a notoriously streaky player of valuable offseason workout time, and that seems to be a major problem thus far.
Anyway, Bowles said, “we’re going to talk more about that,” when asked directly if Smith will replace Fitzpatrick this week, but also added that “there is a possibility every week that there will be some changes made player-wise. If I decide to make a move, they’ll [his staff] will know [Wednesday].”
Remember, Smith was slated to be the Jets’ starter headed into the 2015 season, with Fitzpatrick backing him up, before castoff IK Enemkpali clocked the former second-round pick in the face and broke his jaw. That incident set the stage for Fitzpatrick’s solid season, in which he led the Jets to the cusp of the playoffs while Smith remained on the sideline even after returning to health. Given how long the Jets let the situation with Fitzpatrick fester without simply moving on, it stands to reason that they don’t have much faith in Smith’s ability to lead them.
But hey, Bowles also said that 2015 fourth-rounder Bryce Petty and this year’s second-round pick Christian Hackenburg could eventually play before the end of the season. Maybe the solution to all of the Jets’ problems at quarterback is right under their nose.
These are the New York Football Jets we’re talking about, though. So then again, maybe not.