Now hear me out. I know Geno Smith is everyone’s favorite scapegoat and whipping boy right now and not entirely undeservedly. He has made several mistakes at moments that were inconvenient to say the least. What I’m saying is that Todd Bowles is setting up a system that can help to account for Smith’s weaknesses. He has brought in a veteran potential mentor in Ryan Fitzpatrick who has positive history with the new offensive coordinator Chan Gailey. Gailey, too, has a history of working well with young and troubled QB’s to bring their arms into line.
He has also purchased some space for the young Smith to succeed in heavily loading the defense. A strong defense can’t win championships alone but it can bring opportunities to allow a struggling offense to grind through its hardships.
Use Fitzpatrick as a Mentor
Repeatedly named one of the most intelligent players in all sports, largely due to his having graduated from Harvard with an Economics degree before entering the NFL, he is a wellspring of game knowledge. If he can take Smith under his wing and teach him even some of what he knows about work ethic, character, and of course football, Geno will advance by leaps and bounds.
Smith lacks wisdom. Fitzpatrick doesn’t. It’s as simple as putting in place a QB who has played at a professional level for 11 years with a young player who has been paid to throw a football for two. Perhaps most importantly, Fitzpatrick has a great mindset about work ethic and character. These are the two characteristics that have kept him in the NFL for as long as he has.
No one would accuse him of being one of the best quarterbacks to grace the NFL, he’s no Namath, but he has never been one of the worst. Maybe he’s been, at times, in the bottom tier of starters but that’s still one of the 32 best football throwers in the world on any given day. He did it, by working harder than the next guy. If he can begin to teach those skills to Smith, he’ll become the franchise quarterback the Jets need. When that becomes the case, maybe not this season but certainly the next, make sure to put some green on Jets.
Have Gailey Teach Smith
Chan Gailey is an NFL veteran. He is wise, is in a position to work around Smith’s strengths, and can synergistically improve the culture around Smith. Bowles has undoubtedly chosen Gailey because he has a history of helping struggling QBs improve. In the position of offensive coordinator he’s going to be able to construct and include fast plays. That is, plays with more short shotgun or drop-back passes. Part of how a player will perform will always be whether they fit within a system. Smith has strengths as well as weaknesses and part of the business of a coach is to create systems that fit players’ strengths and downplay their weaknesses.
Two good examples of this done well were in Super Bowl 49: By having a wide spread offense, Seattle was able to capitalize on Wilson’s athleticism throughout the season and a huge array of passing plays lets New England best use Brady’s pass dominance. It is now up to Gailey to make a system that increases Smith’s confidence and plays to his strengths, hopefully avoiding the weaknesses along the way.
Of course, that’s not to mention the fact that he, in combination with Fitzpatrick, can help to build the positive culture that’s needed around the Jets locker room in order to allow a young player like Smith to thrive.
Aside from maybe four of five incredible defenses, which any true fan of the game can name off of the top of their head; defense alone doesn’t win championships. It just doesn’t. At some point the offense has to step up. A defense can create space for an offense to make moves by forcing turnovers and punts. This will put the ball into the hands of their own quarterback and give him opportunities. Todd Bowles knows this.
As the incredibly successful former defensive coordinator for the Arizona Cardinals, his strong defensive strategies allowed the team to go 8–1 under Carson Palmer, who is no one’s idea of a perfect QB, until he and the second string QB were injured, forcing the Cardinals to use their thir- and fourth-string QBs.
The point is that Palmer didn’t carry the team. Bowles’ defense did. Bowles’ defense kept the ball out of the opposing teams’ hands enough to allow a mediocre quarterback and a strong running back to win low-scoring games. And if all of this doesn’t work out? Hey, there’s still Fitzpatrick.
Geno Smith image by slgckgc from Foter.com
Ryan Fitzpatrick image by Jeffrey Beall from Foter.com