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Time for Geno Smith? No, but Ryan Fitzpatrick's clunker an eye-opener

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Jets didn't do many things right on Sunday. One of them came after the game. Todd Bowles was asked if Geno Smith could "move up the depth chart" -- clever phrasing by a reporter -- and the coach shut down any notion of a potential Smith-for-Ryan Fitzpatrick change.

"Ryan's our starter," Bowles said matter-of-factly.

And that was all he said about that.

Indeed, it would be lunacy to entertain any notion of elevating Smith to his old position -- not now, anyway -- but Fitzpatrick's poor performance in Sunday's 24-17 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles was a painful reminder of what the Jets have at quarterback: They don't have a complete player. They don't have the guy who can raise the level of those around him. Game managers are OK, gunslingers are better. They need one of those.

They needed one of those on Sunday.

Presiding over a depleted offense -- no Eric Decker and no Chris Ivory -- Fitzpatrick fell behind by 24 points and was forced to go pass crazy. The Jets were cooked. He tied a career high with 58 pass attempts, including three that were caught by the bad guys -- all in field-goal range, all in the second half.

Fitzpatrick's three interceptions were damaging, and they came on a day in which Smith -- in uniform for the first time since his jaw was broken -- was the No. 2 quarterback. He leapfrogged rookie Bryce Petty, who also was dressed for the game.

Stop it right there. This is no time to launch a "Geno for quarterback" campaign. Remember, we're talking about Geno Smith, he of 34 interceptions in 29 starts. Fitzpatrick was good enough to help the Jets to two victories, and we know he can win if they adhere to a specific script. On Sunday, they went way off the script. They couldn't run the ball, and that cushy field position from the first two games -- courtesy of defensive takeaways -- was nonexistent.

In other words, they exposed Fitzpatrick. You could almost see him turning into a pumpkin before everyone's eyes. Brace yourself, because there will be more games like this. The defense can't force five turnovers every week and the running game will have days when it sputters. If those days start to stack up, Bowles will go back to Smith, his No. 1 guy before IK Enemkpali unleashed his infamous punch.

"Three interceptions," Bowles lamented. "You can't turn the ball over. That's without saying. Whether they get tipped or anything like that, we know we can't turn the ball over. You're not going to win a game throwing three interceptions."

Fitzpatrick is what he is -- a career journeyman, a good leader and a good guy. He can thrive when his supporting cast is making plays, as it was the previous Monday night in Indianapolis, but he can't do it when the only weapon is Brandon Marshall -- who, by the way, hurt the cause with his bonehead lateral-turned-fumble. The Eagles' strategy was simple: Double Marshall, overplay the run and dare anyone else to beat them.

No one took the dare, and the pitch-and-catch game between Fitzpatrick and Marshall (10 receptions, 109 yards) wasn't nearly enough.

"At times, whether it was plays by me or other guys, we lacked a little bit of patience," Fitzpatrick said.

Clearly, he missed Decker (sprained knee), who has developed into his security blanket over the middle. Jeremy Kerley, plucked from moth balls, finished with six catches, including a touchdown, but he's no Decker. Rookie Devin Smith made his much-anticipated debut, but his skill set doesn't fit with Fitzpatrick, who doesn't throw a great deep ball -- and that's Smith's forte. The first interception came on a slightly underthrown long pass to Smith in the end zone.

Fitzpatrick's first two interceptions resulted from bad throws, not bad decisions. What else would you expect from a Harvard guy? On the second pick, he was rushed by Brandon Bair, who tipped the pass to linebacker Jordan Hicks. Fitzpatrick took some of the blame, saying, "I might have created a problem for myself there, the way I moved [in the pocket]." His third interception also was a deflection, this time off Marshall's hands. Marshall said it was his fault. The latter two came on back-to-back drives in the fourth quarter, killing any shot at a comeback.

"They hurt us," Fitzpatrick said.

If the mistakes persist, Bowles will be forced to make a change. That time isn't now, but it seems inevitable.