This week Mark Sanchez hosts his fourth annual Jets West camp, a time where the quarterback and many young receivers get together to run drills and work on the ins-and-outs of the playbook, but the biggest news from the camp is about who isn’t in attendance and that’s rookie quarterback Geno Smith.
There was some confusion about Smith and his possible Jets West invitation at the end of mini-camp, when asked if he would attend Smith simply responded with, “no comment.” This sent some people into a a bit of a tailspin before Smith later clarified he offered the, “no comment,” because he didn’t know what Jets West was and he was told anytime he’s asked a question about something he doesn’t know to simply say “no comment.” More confusion ensued as Sanchez said, “everyone is invited,” when asked if he invited Smith only for Smith to later say he still hadn’t received an invitation.
It appears that Sanchez did formally extend an invitation to the rookie quarterback, but according to the Metro’s Kristian Dyer, Smith has decided to decline the invitation and will continue to train at his home in Florida, according to the Seth Walder of the New York Daily News.
Everyone will scrutinize this move, just as they would have scrutinized a decision to go to the camp but the reality is it’s hard to read too much into this decision. In some ways it’d be nice to see Smith join his teammates in California, but at the same time it’s easy to see why Smith would want to skip the awkwardness and continue training at home near his friends and family.
In year’s past the other quarterbacks have often joined Sanchez for the camp near his home in Mission Viejo, California, but this is the first time there is real competition for the starting job. Mark Brunell and Greg McElroy have attended the camp in the past, but both did so knowing they were the clear backups and even when Tim Tebow joined the camp last year, he was the only one in the organization who didn’t realize he was looked at as strictly a backup.
Sanchez has said he and Smith have a good working relationship built from respect, but also admitted it’s hard to get too close to someone that you’re competing against. Smith is trying to take Sanchez’s job and Sanchez is trying to make sure Smith’s job stays being the backup.
Jets West is a three day camp where Sanchez tries to sneak in a few more days of work with his receivers as they iron out the details of the playbook, anytime a quarterback takes the initiative to get in more work with his teammates it’s absolutely a good thing, but it’d be a stretch to suggest that Smith will be missing out on anything other than some bonding with teammates which he’ll have plenty of time to do later. Maybe if/when Smith eventually takes over the starting job he will have a Jets South camp during the offseason, but as a rookie quarterback it’s easy to think he might be better off staying at home and working on specific things his coaches have already told him to work on.
With no coaches allowed in attendance at Jets West, it’s Sanchez’s show to run. Smith could’ve gone and shown some solidarity (for whatever that’s worth), or he could stay home and focus on improving himself. Solidarity with your receivers, running backs and offensive line is one thing, solidarity with the quarterback you’re trying to beat out for a job is a whole other story though.
Smith chose to stay at home in Florida and while he will undoubtedly face some criticism for the decision it’s hard to believe that any of that criticism will hold up, the reality is this story means more to our curiousity of trying to imagine their working relationship together than it does with anything either of these two quarterbacks will do on the field.