Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

He Gives Backing to Starter

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

He Gives Backing to Starter

Article excerpt

FLORHAM PARK - The Jets' commitment to ongoing, open competition at every football position hasn't yet dropped an ax on quarterback Geno Smith, who retains his starting job despite his costly penchant for turning the ball over. Just days removed from his best Mark Sanchez impression Smith, who stayed on the field until the bitter end of his fumbling, bumbling play in a loss to Tennessee, will be back out there for Monday night's challenge in Atlanta.

So far, Jets coach Rex Ryan is maintaining his commitment to the rookie, expressing his confidence that Smith's learning curve is still trending the right way.

Count Smith's closest competitor among Ryan's supporters.

Matt Simms, No. 2 on the quarterback depth chart, insisted in an interview Friday that fans believing Smith should have been pulled late in the Titans game are rushing to judgment.

"People I think were a little quick last week with Geno. Geno is doing a lot of really good things right now, and he showed a lot of improvement," Simms said. "People have to put in perspective, he is a 22-year-old guy playing this game [for the first time in the NFL] right now. Peyton Manning went [3-13] his first year and threw a lot of interceptions. This game is funny like that. Joe Flacco is a great quarterback and he made a few mistakes last week. That's just how the game goes.

"Hey, they wanted to run my dad [former Giants QB Phil Simms] out of town early in his career and he turned out all right."

Strong words from the one player who would benefit most were Ryan to decide to pull the in-game plug on Smith, and ones that speak well to the evidence that Simms, the North Jersey native and former Don Bosco star, is doing everything he can to support Smith as much as he competes against him. But Simms' feelings also serve to illuminate the Jets' complicated quarterback landscape, in which a team fighting to stay afloat (and so far, doing better than expected at 2-2) has no experienced option to turn to at quarterback, no savvy veteran putting a real push on Smith.

Maybe the Jets would have had that had Sanchez stayed healthy, but we all know that dynamic was set up for trouble from the start. With Sanchez having been stripped of his former face-of-the- franchise status in favor of Smith, theirs was a relationship fraught with conflict and tension. Sanchez's shoulder injury opened the path for Smith, but if it made the rookie's road smoother, it made the Jets' one tougher. With no apparent willingness to go to Simms - Ryan said Friday: "Geno's the quarterback. There is no competition" - this team is going to battle behind Smith's strong arm and slippery hands.

Any calls for Simms to get his chance in a game would bring the same issues of inexperience the Jets have with Smith. Simms is effectively a rookie, too. …

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