Jets name Smith starter ahead of Vick for Monday’s game vs. Dolphins
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Geno Smith is getting another shot as the New York Jets’ starting quarterback.
The team announced Wednesday that Smith, benched the last three games in favor of Michael Vick, will be under center against the Miami Dolphins on Monday night.
”The best thing for this team right now is to play Geno Smith,” coach Rex Ryan said.
Ryan met with both quarterbacks in the morning and informed them of the decision. The Jets (2-9) want to get another look at Smith to make an evaluation on the quarterback, along with other young players, heading into the offseason.
”Understand that everybody is on board with this decision,” Ryan said. ”We purposely put Geno back, let him observe. Now is the opportunity for him to step back in and let’s see how it goes. I, for one, am excited to watch him. He has my support on this, and that’s what I’ll say about it.”
It was initially believed by some that Ryan was leaning toward Vick, but he insisted the decision was ”100 percent our decision,” referring to the entire team. When asked if general manager John Idzik might have swayed him away from Vick, Ryan was defiant.
”One hundred percent, no, he did not,” the coach said.
Smith, in his second season, last started on Oct. 26 in a 43-23 loss to Buffalo in which he threw interceptions on three consecutive possessions and was benched. Vick provided a spark to the offense in his first two starts, but struggled against the Bills on Monday night before being replaced by Smith in the 38-3 loss at Detroit’s Ford Field.
”I always thought that I would (start again), I don’t see why not,” Smith said. ”I never knew when or where, but I’m glad it’s now and I’m glad I have the opportunity and I’m ready to go out there and really show what I’ve got.”
The move caught some Jets players off guard.
”I just didn’t see us flip-flopping,” right guard Willie Colon said. ”I just figured Vick was going to kind of ride us out.”
Running back Chris Johnson didn’t know of the team’s decision until he saw Smith getting snaps with the starters at practice.
”Yeah, it was a surprise,” Johnson said. ”I’ve never really seen it go like: starter getting benched, then the backup coming in, and then a couple games, then the original starter comes back.”
Smith has thrown for 1,459 yards with seven touchdowns and 10 interceptions this season while putting his future as a starter with the franchise in doubt. He was drafted in the second round out of West Virginia last year and started every game as a rookie after Mark Sanchez went down with a shoulder injury in the preseason.
Smith had an up-and-down rookie season, but finished with a strong final month during which the Jets won three of their last four games to finish 8-8 and save Ryan’s job.
The Jets signed Vick in the offseason to a one-year deal to give them an experienced backup, something they lacked last season, who could also serve as a mentor to Smith while also pushing him in training camp. Smith got off to another rocky start by turning the ball over at least once in each of the first six games.
”Now it’s about production and doing a lot of things that I was drafted to do,” Smith said. ”They brought me here to make plays and take care of the football, so I’ve got to do that.”
He had a solid, turnover-free performance in a 27-25 loss to New England, but followed it up with the dreadful game against Buffalo a month ago.
”As a competitor, you always want to be out there,” Smith said. ”You never want to feel like you can’t be a part of the solution.”
The 34-year-old Vick threw for 404 yards and three TDs and an interception in his three starts, helping end an eight-game skid with a 20-13 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Nov. 9.
”That’s not for me to say whether I should be benched or not,” Vick said. ”I don’t look at it as being benched. I look at it as Geno getting another opportunity.”
Vick has mostly said all the right things about the quarterback situation since signing with the Jets, and he took the high road again after the team’s decision. He felt he mostly played well in his three starts, but didn’t ask why Smith was getting the call again.
”That’s my little brother,” Vick said. ”I want him to do well. I want him to succeed and excel. I know he’s got it in him. It’s great to see him get another opportunity. I know he got hurt and some things that happened. He had a sour taste in his mouth, so now he gets a chance to go out and make it right.”