Rex Ryan and the New York Jets are willing to wait a while on picking Mark Sanchez or Geno Smith as the starting quarterback.
Not just for the regular season, but for the team’s next preseason game Saturday night.
”I think it’s too early to say,” Ryan said Tuesday when asked if either is ahead right now. ”And just to say, this guy is leading or whatever, again the competition is not complete. I think we’ll go through the competition and I’m confident the right decision will be made.”
As for this weekend’s home game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, both Ryan and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said there are ”variables” involved, including Smith’s recovery from a mild ankle sprain.
Smith was injured in the team’s preseason opener at Detroit last Friday night, but has not missed any practice time. Smith was able to move around the field with only occasional signs of a limp Tuesday.
”I appreciate him pushing through that thing,” Mornhinweg said. ”Now, when you’re nicked up, you’ve got to play well, as well. Otherwise, you might as well be in the doggone training room. And, he’s done some good things this week even though he’s gimping around just a little bit.”
Sanchez got the start in the opener, and it was generally expected that Smith would open the game against Jacksonville under center so the Jets could get a good look at him. That’s not necessarily a given at this point, though, as Sanchez has gotten most of the first-team snaps this week.
”There are a lot of variables in that,” Mornhinweg said. ”Some are depending on health, and some are depending on how they practice and some are depending on the big-picture plan tentatively set up before we started camp.”
Mornhinweg’s comments echoed those of Ryan, who also earlier in the day insisted no decision had been made, and that Smith’s health would be considered. The Jets also had two more full days of practice in Cortland before the game, so there was plenty of time to make a call.
”Is it a factor? Certainly it’s a factor,” Ryan said of Smith’s ankle. ”Is it the primary one? I don’t know. A lot of factors go into it. Let’s get to where we feel good about the decision and it’s a complete decision.”
Sanchez is not the most popular player in the eyes of many fans, who have grown impatient with his inconsistent play. Ryan insisted, however, that the potential for boos at home Saturday will ”absolutely not” play a factor in the decision.
”I certainly hope that we can move past it and we can focus on what’s in front of us and give not just Mark, but all of us a fair shake,” he said. ”This is your football team, but you certainly have a right to do whatever you choose. If you want to boo whoever it is, our fans certainly have that right. To me, yeah, I absolutely hope that doesn’t happen.
”I hope that everybody is behind us 100 percent.”
With the Jets undecided on this week’s starter, it makes sense that the team also is no closer to determining who will be under center in Week 1 of the regular season against Tampa Bay on Sept. 8. During most quarterback competitions around the NFL, teams will make a decision heading into the third preseason game as most of the starters play into at least the third quarter.
But, Ryan indicated there’s a chance the Jets could still be waiting to make the call going into that game against the Giants.
”We never put a timetable on it,” he said. ”That’s usually it, but it’s not set in stone that that’s an absolute must, that that has to happen. We may still be in the evaluating stage for all the positions.”
When the Jets reported for camp in Cortland nearly three weeks ago, Ryan suggested it would be better to have one of the quarterbacks take the lead in the competition ”sooner rather than later.” There has been no clear-cut choice so far, through one preseason game, and Sanchez and Smith are still very much locked in a tight competition.
Sanchez and Smith have both had their ups and downs throughout camp, but neither has been overly impressive. Sanchez started the preseason opener the same way he ended last season, making a maddening mistake as he threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown by Ziggy Ansah.
”It can’t happen again,” Ryan said. ”There’s no doubt.”
Sanchez bounced back in a big way and finished his three possessions with an impressive scoring drive that was capped by a touchdown pass to Jeff Cumberland.
”I’ve been proud of him on a couple of different occasions,” Mornhinweg said of Sanchez, who had a rough start to the team’s scrimmage two weeks ago but finished with a touchdown drive.
Smith has also impressed the coaches at times, especially with his arm strength and quick rate of picking up the offense – although he dipped a bit in recent practices.
”I think he’s certainly had his moments where he’s looked great and not just the first week, but he looked good in the game,” Ryan said. ”He was 6-of-7 passing, so I don’t know if that’s it. Did he have a couple of rough days? Absolutely, but everybody’s had some rough days.”
Mornhinweg also said he wasn’t able to do much of an evaluation on Smith in the first game because he was focused on several aspects of the offense and not just the quarterback play.
”He handled the huddle well, all those things,” Mornhinweg said. ”Probably looking back on it, it was probably a pretty good first experience. He got in, he completed a few balls and now he’s got to push through this thing.”