FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Are the New York Jets all in with Geno Smith?
No doubt, that'll be one of the first questions Tuesday when Rex Ryan and general manager John Idzik meet the media for their season-ending news conference. The quarterback position will be the hottest topic of the offseason because it's a multi-layered issue. And because we love quarterback stories.
You already have a player on campus with upside (Smith). You have the possibility of a few big names in the draft (Teddy Bridgewater and Johnny Manziel). You have an intriguing young veteran that could be on the trading block (Kirk Cousins). And you have a handful of interesting free agents (Josh McCown and Michael Vick).
Oh, yes, and let's not forget about the resident quarterback in limbo, Mark Sanchez.
Idzik drafted Smith and wants him to succeed. Everybody wants to see him succeed because he's likable and works hard, and because the Jets haven't had a franchise quarterback since Joe Namath. But the Jets have to be careful, because it would be a big mistake to place too much emphasis on the last few games. Even the most experienced GMs sometimes can't tell the difference between a late-season rally and a late-season mirage.
Yes, Smith improved over the final four games, but there were no 300-yard games that blew you away. His cumulative passer rating over that stretch was a modest 83.6. He beat two dead teams, the Oakland Raiders and Cleveland Browns, before rising up with a terrific game against the Miami Dolphins. He looked so good in those game because his bar had dropped so low. You can't forget about the 21 interceptions.
Let me be clear: Smith deserves a shot at the starting job. The Jets should continue to develop him because there's potential. He started every game and won eight, a fairly impressive feat for a rookie in a new system, surrounded by mediocre skill-position talent.
In short, he didn't do anything to lose the job -- a job, technically, he was never given in the first place. The Jets, playing the semantic game, never anointed him as the starting quarterback.
But now is not the time to stand pat. They need to augment the position. I'd be surprised if Idzik selected a quarterback in the first or second round, one year after investing a second-round pick in Smith, but he should keep an open mind. If he falls in love with a guy, grab him.
How about a veteran acquisition? Yes, the Jets absolutely must consider a competent veteran. They need someone who can start in the event of injury or slump, someone to push Smith. They got away with not having that guy in a rebuilding year, but the expectations will be greater in 2014. The Jets should spend a little extra money for a legit No. 1/No. 2 quarterback, someone willing to accept a backup role.
There's a lot to like about Smith. But you can't build a prosperous marriage on like.
ICYMI: As they cleaned out their lockers, the Jets offered strong support for Smith. ... The Jets are reportedly poised to offer Ryan a one-year contract extension. ... Sheldon Richardson should be the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. So says Sheldon Richardson. ... Kicker Nick Folk is looking for a pay day. ... Ed Reed wants to play another year.