<
>

Chan Gailey: 'Never a thought' of Geno Smith, Ryan Fitzpatrick QB battle

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The New York Jets' quarterback competition is over before it began. It's Geno Smith's job -- again.

Despite 34 interceptions over his first two seasons, Smith is the unquestioned starter of the Jets, first-year offensive coordinator Chan Gailey said Wednesday.

There will be no training camp battle between Smith and Ryan Fitzpatrick, according to Gailey, who claimed an open competition "wasn't a thought."

Gailey said it has been Smith's job all the way, although this was the first public acknowledgement by anyone in the organization. Coach Todd Bowles has said repeatedly that Smith would go into training camp as the No. 1 quarterback, but that he'd have to earn the job.

That's why it came as a surprise Wednesday when Gailey, in his first session with the New York media, dropped the news almost nonchalantly.

Only 30 minutes earlier, Bowles was measured in his praise of Smith, saying it's difficult to evaluate a quarterback based on noncontact practices.

Gailey studied every game from last season and liked what he saw from Smith, saying, "He's very talented. I have high hopes for him."

Smith apparently will be untouchable in training camp. Gailey said, barring injury, there's virtually no way Smith can lose the job in the preseason. He "probably" will be the Week 1 starter against the Cleveland Browns, according to Gailey.

"That's the way we expect it to be," he said. "Unless something happens with an injury, something that you don't foresee, that's how we anticipate it going."

Gailey said the decision was made months ago, before they acquired Fitzpatrick in a trade with the Houston Texans. At that time, in March, Fitzpatrick was informed he'd be the backup, according to Gailey.

But no one said it publicly.

Fitzpatrick hasn't been able to compete at full strength because he's still recovering from a broken leg, sustained last December. The veteran journeyman has been limited in OTA practices, but he should be 100 percent by camp. The Jets also have rookie Bryce Petty, a fourth-round pick, but he's not expected to be a factor this year.

This won't be a popular decision among the fans, many of whom turned on Smith last season and booed him at home games. It was a turbulent year for Smith, who missed a team meeting and was benched for three games for poor play. He also was fined by the league for yelling an obscenity at a fan.

"He's been here and he's done enough quality things that he deserves the opportunity to be the guy," Gailey said.

After three games on the bench, Smith played well down the stretch, finishing with a perfect 158.3 passer rating in the season finale against the Miami Dolphins. But his career record is only 11-18, and his QBR (35.7) is the third-lowest in the league over the last two seasons.

Two hours before Gailey's bombshell, Smith was coy when asked if he's confident he would be the Week 1 starter.

"Confidence goes a long way and I'm very confident in myself," he said. "But we're far away from Week 1."

Bowles was complimentary of Smith's work and study habits, but he added that "he's playing two-hand touch" -- meaning no hitting in practice. Bowles gave no indication that he already had decided on Smith as his starter.

This is the new coaching staff, so it took some time to formulate opinions of the returning personnel. Gailey focused on Smith's performance last season, not watching any games from his poor rookie year.

"He can make every throw in the book," Gailey said. "You don't find many that can do that. You try to find a guy that can do that and you give him every opportunity to be successful.

"I think you see an awful lot of talent there," he continued. "If we can get it where he puts it all together. ... I don't know how good he can be. He can be pretty good, though, if he can get it all together."