|Geno Smith celebrates a touchdown against Miami. (AP photo)|
Based on his play this entire season, there is no way the Jets can go into next season with Smith as the clear-cut starting quarterback. He threw 21 interceptions and was downright horrible in eight games. More often than not, Smith made Mark Sanchez look like Peyton Manning by comparison. Smith had a string of four straight games where he completed eight or fewer passes, which is shocking.
Rock bottom for Smith came in Week 13 against the Dolphins at home, when he went 4-of-10 passing for 29 yards and an interception in the first half. He never got a chance to play in the second, as Ryan benched the rookie quarterback for the rest of the game. At that point, if the Jets had a capable backup quarterback, Smith's season would have been over, as he would have been benched for the rest of the season. But with just Matt Simms and David Garrard on the roster, Smith got the opportunity to play again.
In the next two weeks, against Oakland and Carolina, he improved, but still didn't give anyone reason to believe he could be a starting quarterback in this league.
But Smith may have saved his career with his play over the final two weeks of the season. Against the Browns, Smith was 20-of-36 for 214 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for 48 yards and a touchdown. Against the Dolphins, in a stadium where he grew up across the street from, Smith completed 17-of-27 passes for 190 yards and ran for 44 yards and a touchdown.
Smith didn't turn the ball over in either game.
He played with passion and desire, maybe a little too much when he was lowering his shoulder on running plays. But nobody can question the fact he wanted to go out on a high note. Smith lowered his shoulder on a run to the sideline early in the game. On another, he went airborne on a run to the one-yard line, getting flipped completely over. That set up a Sheldon Richardson one-yard touchdown run. Most impressive was his seven-yard touchdown run on a quarterback draw with just three seconds left in the first half, where he bounced off defenders and then bulled his way into the end zone after getting stood up at the one.
It was the kind of fight Jets fans and the entire organization wanted to see from Smith the entire season. It's good for a quarterback to be even-keel, but some emotion is always welcomed. Smith showed it for the first time in beating the Dolphins. But is it all too late?
If Smith played the entire season as he did against the Browns or Dolphins, there would be no question as to who the starting quarterback for this team would be next year. But the position is anything but set.
The free agent quarterback crop isn't anything to get excited about. Sure, there is the possibility that Bears quarterback Jay Cutler becomes available, but that would be a horrible decision by Chicago to let him go. If he did become available, the Jets should jump at the opportunity. Other than that, there would be no reason to bring in Josh Freeman or Matt Flynn or Michael Vick. The Jets shouldn't even think about giving up a high draft pick for Redskins backup quarterback Kirk Cousins either. It's not worth it.
The Jets should have plenty of options in the NFL draft, but right now it's anyone's guess as to who will even be available. They certainly won't get a shot at Teddy Bridgewater, the Louisville quarterback.
So, the end result most likely will be the Jets go into next season with Smith as the penciled-in starter with a veteran quarterback brought in for competition. The deck will be stacked in Smith's favor.
That is a whole lot easier to digest now after the last two weeks of football played by Smith. The Jets 2014 quarterback will be a question mark most of this offseason, but at least fans can breathe a little easier now knowing Smith finished by playing the best football of his young career.