<
>

Sunday notes: New York Jets' faith in Geno Smith is unusual, historically speaking

The Jets are sticking with Geno Smith despite to seasons of below average play. Al Bello/Getty Images

A look at what's going on around the New York Jets:

1. Third time's a charm? It's not unprecedented for a quarterback like Geno Smith to get another starting nod after two below-average seasons. Look at quarterbacks of his statistical ilk, and you'll see it happens fairly often. But keeping reading because there's a caveat.

The folks at Football Outsiders did some number crunching and came up with a list of 10 quarterbacks over the last 25 years whose statistical metrics in their first two seasons come closest to Smith's numbers (minimum: 100 attempts). This list isn't flattering toward Smith -- Kyle Boller, Jake Locker, Tim Couch, Rick Mirer, Trent Dilfer, Joey Harrington, Charlie Frye, Billy Joe Tolliver, Steve Walsh and Jake Plummer.

Basically, they all stunk in their first two seasons, but eight of the 10 -- all except Tolliver and Walsh -- started opening day in Year 3. Ah, but there's more to the story: Seven of the eight were first-round picks, including four in the top-6. The exception was Frye (third round), who got benched in the 2007 opener and never started another game for the Cleveland Browns.

Obviously, teams are more patient with first-round draft choices because of the money invested. Smith was a second-round pick, so, yeah, what the Jets are doing is outside the box. The new regime is planning to start Smith after two years of play that ranged mostly from poor to uneven. If he succeeds, he'll be bucking a trend.

2. Follow-up QB thoughts: The Jets' quarterback announcement, which wasn't really an announcement as much as a clarification, has produced some misguided chatter. Allow me to clean up a couple of things.

No, offensive coordinator Chan Gailey didn't undermine Todd Bowles by proclaiming Smith the starter. In Gailey's mind, he was reiterating what Bowles already had stated on multiple occasions. In reality, though, Bowles wasn't nearly as definitive as Gailey, who skipped the coachspeak and gave a candid answer to a question.

No, the job doesn't come with a lifetime appointment for Smith. He's like 95 percent of the starting players in the league; if he performs poorly, he'll lose the job. Very few are afforded "untouchable" status, and Smith is a long way from that. But make no mistake, their plan is to go into the season with him behind center.

3. Geno versus Mariota: I wonder if the new coaching staff would feel this confident about Smith if they had drafted Marcus Mariota or Jameis Winston. Gailey was asked if he viewed Smith as a better option than Mariota and Winston, and he ducked. I know this: The Jets never were going to pick Mariota at No. 6; he wasn't among the top six on their draft board. Neither was Winston, from what I'm told.

4. Not wild about the deuce: The general consensus around the league is the longer PAT (32/33 yards) will cause teams to try more two-point plays than in the past, especially in bad weather. I have some advice for the Jets: Practice, practice, practice.

They're the worst two-point team in the league, and it's not even close for second-worst. Since 2001, the Jets have converted a league-low 27.8 percent -- 10-for-36. Their last successful conversion was 2010.

More sobering numbers: In Gailey's last coaching gig (Buffalo Bills, 2010-2012), his offense was only 1-for-5 on conversions.

Bowles said his strategy for PAT versus two-point play will be based on weather and game conditions.

"I think it will depend on whether you’re playing in Green Bay or Miami," he said. "If it’s 20 below and the wind is swirling, you may be more inclined to go for two. If the weather is nice, you probably kick the extra point. I think once it gets cold, it may factor in more than it factors in early in the season."

Some good news for the Jets: Kicker Nick Folk is 9-for-9 in his career from 32 and 33 yards. So there's that.

5. April disagrees with Feely: Former Jets kicker Jay Feely made headlines with his response to the new PAT rule, saying it increases the injury risk. I understand where he's coming from. Because the kick is 13 yards longer than the previous distance, teams will rush more aggressively in an attempt to block the kick. That will lead to more contact, which could lead to more injuries -- in theory.

Special teams coach Bobby April disgreed with Feely's take, and I'm with April on this one.

"You wouldn’t want to take contact out of the game," April said. "We’d be playing soccer."

6. The Zac attack: Zac Stacy created a buzz on draft day when he tweeted "Yikes!" in response to the St. Louis Rams picking running back Todd Gurley. Stacy told me, "It was humorous. I didn't think it would get that reaction." Unbeknownst to many, he reached out to Gurley, congratulating him and wishing him well with the Rams -- a classy gesture.

You know the rest of the story: Stacy requested a trade and he was dealt to the Jets, where he finds himself in a crowded backfield.

"It'll be a huge competition," he said. "We all understand what's at stake."

Stacy said he considers himself an every-down back, and he expects plenty of opportunities.

"With these guys being third in the league in rushing, I figure they're going to run the ball a little bit," he said. "It gets you licking your chops."

7. Double vision: One of the early takeaways from watching Bowles' practices is that he likes to split the team and use two fields, which gives reps to more players. That's one of the reasons why he's going with five quarterbacks on the roster. By training camp, he expects to have it down to four. We saw another practice wrinkle last week. Bowles created an offense-versus-defense challenge in a two-minute drill, and the loser (the offense) had to run gassers. The only time I can remember gassers under Rex Ryan was a few years ago in Cortland, where several skirmishes erupted in practice and Ryan made them run penalty sprints.

8. E-Z pass (defense): Listening to Antonio Cromartie talk about Bowles' defensive scheme makes you think it shouldn't take long for the players to master the nuances of the system.

"This is by far the simplest defense anybody could play," said Cromartie, who played under Bowles last year in Arizona. "The defense itself is straightforward. If you can't learn this defense, something is wrong with you."

Cromartie loves the simplicity because it allows the players to play fast. No one ever called Ryan's scheme easy to learn, but the players always said it allowed them to play fast. Here's what I think: If you have fast players, you play fast.

9. The select two: Only two of the nine undrafted players received signing bonuses -- defensive tackle Davon Wells ($15,000) and safety Durrell Eskridge ($8,500, plus a $5,000 guarantee on his base salary). When a rookie free agent gets a bonus, it usually means there was competition for his services.

10. Call him Mr. T Bill: Before the 2012 season, then-GM Mike Tannenbaum extended Mark Sanchez's contract even though it had two years to go. Sanchez received a $20.5 million guarantee. Last week, Tannenbaum, now the Miami Dolphins' football czar, extended Ryan Tannehill's contract even though it had two years remaining. It includes $21.5 million in guarantees (which can increase to $45 million). Tannenbaum better hope this works out better than the last one.