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Curious case of the missing Jets QBs

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- It is never good news when Denver quarterback Peyton Manning, the most devastating offensive force in the NFL the past 15 years, is coming to town to ransack your already-troubled secondary fresh off a 479-yard passing game.

But the timing of Manning's scheduled arrival Sunday particularly stinks for the 1-4 Jets, who are riding a four-game losing streak and starting to look and act as if they don't have two viable options at their unsettled quarterback position. They have none.

That was the gnawing feeling that Geno Smith and Michael Vick added to Wednesday, as the Jets began preparing for the Broncos' visit fresh off their 31-0 beatdown by San Diego.

There are so many brush fires to put out, it was hard to know where to look when Rex Ryan and the players got back to work Wednesday. Tensions were high.

Ryan -- who went on the radio a day earlier and said he'd understand if owner Woody Johnson fired him -- began his news conference by looking at the larger-than-usual crowd of cameras his remarks drew and said, "Geez, we've gotta get a win so there'll be just two cameras here again, you know?" Then linebacker Demario Davis elaborated on his remarks after Sunday's rout by San Diego that the Jets didn't practice like a championship team. And defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, one of the most gregarious Jets when things are going well, walked past the horde of reporters waiting for Smith to appear at his locker and muttered under his breath, "Vultures."

All of that was going on, and yet this still took the prize as worst: When Smith arrived, he talked about his benching for poor play Sunday and described how he apologized to the entire team for missing a pregame meeting Saturday night, just a few days after he called a players-only meeting to preach accountability. And not 40 feet away, Vick stood at his locker saying he was/wasn't/was as prepared as he could've been to replace Smith in the second half Sunday, though the chance came as no surprise.

At least I think that's what Vick said.

See if you can follow his remarks after he was asked about the importance of staying ready:

"I learned my lesson last week -- always stay ready, always be prepared," Vick began. "This is the first time I've been in this [backup] position for this length of time, and to just get thrown out there last week, it was fun to go out there and play. But it left a bitter taste in my mouth that I wasn't able to put points on the board or even help this team in any fashion. So this week has been a different work week for me than throughout the rest of the years."

Did Vick feel caught off guard, unprepared?

"I wasn't really caught off guard because I knew anything could happen, but, yeah ... I've taken the majority of the scout-team snaps," Vick said. "Never take the scout team for granted. To all the young guys out there, don't take that scout team for granted. You better take every rep and get 100 percent out of it. ... Maybe I didn't prepare or I wasn't prepared. But let me tell you what -- it won't happen again."

So you weren't as ready because of your scout-team snaps?

"I didn't say I wasn't ready because of the snaps," Vick said.

What did you say?

"I said it's no excuse. ... I felt like I, for some reason, being a quarterback in his 12th year ... I think I took the scout team for granted."

Got all that?

And if so, can you tell me what the hell he meant?

No, never mind. Here's a better question: How does this happen? How do the two most important players on the Jets right now -- Quarterbacks 1 and 1A -- allow any of that to happen while riding a three-game losing streak with Manning and the Broncos coming up?

The longer Vick talks, the harder it is to know what he wants or where his heart is. Before joining the Jets in the offseason, he said he still considered himself a starter and elite talent in this league. Now? There's an opportunity to re-establish himself glittering before him. Yet he sounds at times like a 34-year-old man who just wants to play out his one-year, $5 million contract here and get out of this goofy organization with his limbs intact and brain unconcussed rather than start for a club that is going nowhere fast.

And Smith? Where do you start? Two weeks ago he was booed off the field and fined after he cussed out a home fan. Last weekend, he diminished any slack he might otherwise reasonably get for being only a second-year quarterback when he didn't come through on things he can control by undermining his leadership by preaching accountability and missing a meeting himself. Wednesday, Smith admitted he doesn't know what kind of reception to expect in his first game back at MetLife this week. But here's an educated guess: The boo birds will have hair-trigger tempers and megaphones for mouths.

There's a reason Ryan is on the fast track to getting fired. The players and general manager have changed around Ryan during his six-year stay here, but he continues to run a shop where the wayward, the exotic, the unforgiveable seem to constantly happen on and off the field. The offense might as well be in Nepal, not meeting just down the hall. Failing to publicly discipline Smith is just the latest oversight Ryan has committed. He should have started Vick on Sunday to discipline Smith for his two-week brain cramp and let Smith come off the bench if Vick faltered.

The NFL is a quarterback's league, all right.

The Chargers' Philip Rivers emphatically reminded the Jets of that last Sunday. Manning will underscore it a few days. And the Jets get Tom Brady after that.

Meanwhile, the Jets two quarterbacks are not just losing games, they seem to be lost themselves.