FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- We're five days removed from the Percy Harvin trade, and there's still an element of mystery surrounding the New York Jets' motivation for the deal. One theory being floated is they believe a playmaker of Harvin's ilk will accelerate the development of Geno Smith, assisting the organization as it formulates an evaluation of the quarterback over the final nine games.
I don't think that was the primary reason for the trade. If it was, my question is this: Why didn't they take that approach in the offseason? Why didn't they try to sign another wide receiver to go along with Eric Decker? Bringing Harvin into the fold at this point in the season, asking him to learn an offense on the fly and develop a rapport with Smith, is a too-little, too-late move. It may provide some help to Smith, but it won't elevate him to a new level.
Harvin won't save Smith. The only person who can save Geno is Geno. He has nine games to convince the brass he's their long-term answer. Let's be honest, it'll have to be one whale of a nine-game run to erase the first 23 games.
"Receivers don't make quarterbacks; quarterbacks make receivers," a longtime personnel executive said Wednesday, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "I don't think Geno can play, I don't care who you put around him. Yeah, [Harvin] will make him a little better, but I've seen enough of Geno. You can't saddle the next coach with another year of Geno."
Smith played one of his best all-around games in last week's loss to the New England Patriots, managing to go a full game without an interception -- only the fifth time he's done that in 23 starts. There were some positives (an 88.6 passer rating), but the question is whether he can sustain it. This is hard to believe, but only once has he posted an 80 rating or better in back-to-back games -- the final two games last season.
Starting Sunday against the Buffalo Bills (4-3), Smith needs to put together a string of feel-good performances. He dismissed the idea that last week was a building block, saying, "No, we lost the game. That's that."
Smith has made slight improvements from last season in most of the major statistical categories, but as Bill Parcells always used to say, the quarterback's job is to get his team into the end zone. Smith isn't doing that. The Jets are averaging only 17 points per game, tied for 28th in the league. That's not good enough. Not even close.
Decker believes Harvin's presence will take some pressure off Smith, because he can take a short, high-percentage throw and break it for 40 or 50 yards. That's a fine theory. The Seattle Seahawks felt the same way, except the longest of Harvin's 22 receptions was only 33 yards. The Seahawks didn't know how to use Harvin and gave up. Why should we believe the Jets will be any different?
Smith spoke highly of Harvin's "dynamic" ability -- that's the new favorite word in the Jets' locker room -- but he stopped short of making any bold predictions. "This isn't video games," he said, meaning that integrating Harvin into the offense will take longer than popping a disc into a Play Station.
It's funny how general manager John Idzik and Rex Ryan have tried to remove Smith from the Harvin equation, insisting their young quarterback's development wasn't the impetus for the trade. "No, I don't see that," Ryan said. Of course, if he acknowledged that, he'd basically be calling out his GM for doing a lousy job of stocking the receiver position in the offseason.
Which he did. Stephen Hill was hopeless, Jalen Saunders was a bust, Jacoby Ford was an inexpensive flyer who couldn't fly (at least not with the ball in his hands) and David Nelson was a possession receiver who didn't excite the brass. And yet Idzik said Monday, "I think we have some weapons, I really do."
If the Jets have weapons, they're dormant. The reason is Smith. The quarterback makes everybody better -- or worse. Maybe Harvin can provide a spark, but a spark won't ignite a damp firecracker.