“All around the world, same song.”
Okay, maybe it’s not all around the world, or even the NFL world, but “all around the Jets for the past three years, same song,” doesn’t fit into a nice rhythmic hook like the quote from the classic Digital Underground song.
There’s a new quarterback and for the third straight year a new offensive coordinator, but it’s still the same old song; poor protection, no real weapons, inconsistent running game (again with the offensive line) and a quarterback who is both shellshocked and gun-shy. Geno Smith has not played well these past few games, that much is clear and not up for debate, what is up for debate is just how much better could you hope for considering the circumstances?
Mark Sanchez was never great, but he showed flashes of being good over his first two years when he had the best offensive line and running game in football, but once that line disintegrated and the running game slowed down Sanchez became gun-shy, scarred to pull the trigger early yet also sensing phantom pressure that was never really there.
It happens to all quarterbacks, hit them and rattle them enough and they start to feel those footsteps closing in faster than they actually are. They get happy feet and start sliding all around the pocket just trying to survive the play without looking downfield and then at the last second they think they see something and, since they so desperately want to make a big play happen, they force a mistake.
Again this happens to all quarterbacks, some more than others, but for young quarterbacks to succeed in this league they need help and the Jets haven’t given their past two quarterbacks any help to work with.
The protection is great half the time, but it’s the other half that’s killing them and in case you haven’t noticed the protection breakdowns have been coming early in the past few games and after possession after possession with little to no time, Smith starts to sense pressure that’s not there, stops reading through his progressions and fails to pull the trigger early, as soon as he sees an opening, which leads to him forcing passes into tight coverage late because he’s pressing.
It would help if he had receivers who could get open consistently, Jeremy Kerley is a huge loss because he’s the only receiver Smith can have any real confidence in, and not drop easy passes which leads to another issue, how much does Smith trust his receivers?
If a quarterback doesn’t trust (or does trust, but shouldn’t) his receivers it doesn’t matter how good the quarterback is, it’s going to get ugly (see Tom Brady earlier this season, yeah they kept winning but with a better offensive-line, running game, receivers and, obviously, quarterback). Trust is tricky, trust must be earned but it’s a two-way street, sometimes not trusting someone says more about you than it does the person you don’t trust. Smith has good reason not to trust his receivers, but wouldn’t it be natural for him to still be working on building trust with his receivers even if he had the most trustworthy receivers ever?
Smith has shown he has the physical tools, but the knock on him is the same as it was coming out of college. He didn’t run anything near and NFL offense in college and he didn’t have to deal with the speed and complexity of NFL defenses. Now he’s learning how to run a complicated NFL offense while trying to decipher complex disguising defenses while continually getting knocked to the ground. It’s an awful lot for any rookie quarterback to handle and at times it has proven to be too much.
But the problem is the same as it was the past two seasons, there is no quick fix. Playing Matt Simms won’t make any difference, that won’t fix the protection issues or suddenly make the receivers get open and complete passes. No, it’d be exactly the same problems with a more limited quarterback and it would put the process of evaluating Smith on hold. Smith may or may not be the Jets future quarterback, but Simms will not be.
It doesn’t get any easier next week as the Dolphins come to town with a havoc-wrecking defensive front and smothering secondary, but the only option remains to let Smith ride it out through the bumps and bruises and see where he ends up after 16 games.
The fixes will come next year (a lot of money will come off the books to sign free agents and another solid draft class), but until then this is what they have to work with and we all knew about these issues before the season started.
Smith must play better, not just for this year, but to prove he is the quarterback of the future, but he can’t do it alone. Smith deserves his share of criticism, but the offensive-line and receivers deserve as much if not more.
The past two seasons Sanchez shouldered all the blame despite the talent around him not holding up their end, there may be a new quarterback, but the rest of the issues remain the same which is why we are seeing the same problems reoccurring and it’ll take an infusion of new weapons and offensive-line talent to change the song.
Until then it’ll continue to be, ‘all around the Jets offense, same song.’