Geno Smith’s jaw is broken. No one was too sure about him anyway, and now he’s out. The Jets seem to be turning to a boring backup Ryan Fitzpatrick to lead the team, at least to start the year.
They shouldn’t do it. What they should do is send Baylor’s Bryce Petty out in Week 1 and see what happens.
Technically, Fitzpatrick is probably the best option. He’s started a lot of games. He has experience. He’s a smart, Harvard grad. He’s also not going to throw a lot of touchdowns or win a lot of games. He never has. He’s never even played in a playoff game.
Fitzpatrick is your run-of-the-mill, 189 yards with a touchdown and a pick type of quarterback. Nothing that stands out. The Jets know exactly where the ceiling is—and where the floor is—and so they know he can turn in average performances.
It’s gambling a lot more with Petty. The guy has never thrown a pass in the NFL. Who knows where the floor is, or where the ceiling is? The Jets certainly don’t, which is why they feel comfortable with Fitzpatrick instead.
But this is the NFL. This isn’t about comfort. Throw the kid to the wolves and see what he can do.
All he did was rain touchdowns at Baylor. And it wasn’t just against soft defenses. The Michigan State Spartans had one of the best defenses in the NCAA last year, with future 11th overall pick Trae Waynes starting at corner. They were tough and physical—something Big 12 defenses aren’t known for.
All Petty did in the bowl game was throw for 550 yards and three touchdowns. He would have won, but his defense choked, giving up three scores in the final quarter.
Petty may not be ready yet. He may come out and throw picks, unsure how to read defenses. Facing a pass rush may hurry him into poor throws. These are always concerns with young quarterbacks, and Petty is no more immune to them than Andrew Luck or anyone else. He’s going to struggle.
But the kid can play, he can throw the ball, and he can bring some excitement and energy to the Jets. They already have some nice weapons at wideout and a potentially elite defense. They can weather a few mistakes.
Fitzpatrick is just going to bring the low-powered, low-scoring brand of offense that he’s always brought. It’s why he’s bounced around the league. Sure, he’s had some outlier games, including one six-TD performance, but his standard game isn’t all that flashy or fun.
That can hold the Jets back. They’re pretty good everywhere else. They just need a quarterback who can make plays. Ryan Fitzpatrick isn’t that quarterback. Neither is Smith.
Petty might be.
What do they really have to lose? Are the Jets happy to settle for a mediocre year? Starting Fitzpatrick says they’re committed to not being horrible. That they’re trying not to lose too often. And he probably gives them that.
Starting Petty says they want to try to win. It could fail massively, and it is a gamble. But it says they’re not afraid to take a chance to see if they can win, if the kid can throw as well in the NFL as he did in college.
Average play is not enough. The Jets would be better off to be terrible or great. Sitting in the middle gets a team nowhere. Throw Petty in and find out which one he is. With Smith out of the way, it can be an exciting experiment and fans can’t even be that mad if it fails. They weren’t going to win the Super Bowl or the AFC East with Smith, or Fitzpatrick, anyway.