GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The New York Jets don't have a Ryan Fitzpatrick problem. They have an everything problem, but all eyes will be on Todd Bowles to see how he handles his quarterback situation in the coming weeks. For now, he's sticking with Fitzpatrick. The coach made that clear Monday night after an ugly 28-3 loss to the Arizona Cardinals.
"Fitz will be back next week," said Bowles, claiming his decision to insert Geno Smith in the fourth quarter was strictly a mop-up move.
Fitzpatrick doesn't deserve another shot based on his recent performances, but it's the right call. Give him one last chance. The season is over, so what difference does it make? It's too soon to play the kids, Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg, so let Fitzpatrick start against the Baltimore Ravens on a short leash.
Quite obviously, Smith wants the job.
The Jets' backup made his feelings clear near the end of the third quarter. Moments after Fitzpatrick threw his 11th interception of the season, including his fourth in the red zone, Smith emerged from his seat on the bench, flung his baseball cap about 10 feet and paced anxiously. A minute or so later, he tossed a cup of ice toward the field of play. His body language screamed, "Put me in!" Quite frankly, it was a bush-league display.
Smith chalked it up to "just frustration. We're not putting up points, we're not winning the game." He was either showing up Fitzpatrick or telling the world he wanted to play. Either way, it sent a bad message. But he got his wish.
Smith replaced Fitzpatrick with 8:20 remaining in the game and the Jets trailing 28-3 -- aka garbage time. Bowles should have made the move at halftime, if only to shake up the mojo, but this much we know about Bowles: He doesn't have a quick hook. Smith completed a few passes against soft coverage, but he also joined the pick party, throwing an interception on his first series. He finished 4-of-6 for 31 yards.
Afterward, Bowles channeled his inner Joe Girardi, using a baseball analogy to describe his quarterback situation. Smith was simply a relief pitcher, replacing the starter, Bowles said.
Does he have a set-up man?
"It definitely wasn't Fitz's fault," Bowles said.
The Jets, losers of four straight, have become a dumpster fire. They've been outscored 110-36 in the past four games, having managed only three touchdowns in that span -- and one of them was a fluke fumble recovery. They were an absolute mess in this game, committing 10 penalties and managing only two of 13 third-down conversions.
"We're 1-5. It's ugly. It's grim," Brandon Marshall said.
Fitzpatrick (16-of-31, 174 yards) was the third-most accurate quarterback in the Phoenix area, behind the Cards' Carson Palmer and former scattershot passer Tim Tebow, who is now playing baseball in the Arizona Instructional League. Yeah, it was that bad, but it wasn't entirely Fitzpatrick's fault. His pass protection was shaky and his receivers were Marshall and a bunch of inexperienced kids. Yes, they lost a good player in Eric Decker, but this collapse can't be blamed on his absence.
The Jets are a flawed team, and that falls on general manager Mike Maccagnan, who assembled a win-now team that isn't winning now. Forget about the playoffs. Since 1970, only two teams rallied from a 1-5 start to make the postseason -- the 1970 Cincinnati Bengals and the 2015 Kansas City Chiefs.
Bowles has bigger problems than at quarterback. His vaunted run defense, the only thing they do well, was ripped apart by David Johnson, who ran for 111 yards and three touchdowns. They did nothing in the second half, as usual. They've been outscored, 51-7, in the third and fourth quarters of the last four games.
The last thing they need is a quarterback controversy that divides the locker room, but you saw subtle signs on Monday night. Smith made his feelings known by his behavior on the sideline, which prompted no reaction from Fitzpatrick after the game. It was noteworthy that Fitzpatrick mentioned how he believes "those guys in the huddle" still believe in him, adding, "You can go ahead in the locker room and ask them all if you want."
Bold words, indeed.