By Glenn Naughton
At the conclusion of Jets practice over each of the last two days, head coach Todd Bowles has been bombarded with questions regarding his quarterback situation. When asked about the status of starter Ryan Fitzpatrick and what it might take for him to lose his job, Bowles was crystal clear, saying “He’s not going to lose it in practice” and that it would take “something drastic” for Fitzpatrick to sit out the Jets week-one contest against the Bengals.
However, when asked about the status of back-up quarterback Geno Smith on each of the first two days of camp, Bowles left a bit more wiggle room. Here’s the brief exchange on day one:
Reporter: Todd, now that Fitz is back there has been some speculation about Geno’s roster spot. How do you characterize that? Is he locked in as then umber two.
Bowles: Geno’s here. (pauses)
Reporter: Is he locked in as the number two.
Bowles: Geno’s here right now as the number two unless Bryce or Hack have some great games and come along like gang busters, but he’s number two right now but it’s open”.
Not the most reassuring statement, was it? Ask anyone, in any profession, exactly how they feel about their job security if and when their boss is asked if they’re locked in to their job and the response is simply “he’s here” or “he’s here right now, but it’s open”, and see how well that goes over.
Now, in fairness to all of the back-ups, Bowles did continue in that very statement saying it was no different from Fitzpatrick himself, who could lose his job if he were to struggle, but that did run counter to his comments regarding Fitzpatrick’s status as the starter when he said it would take something drastic to make a change.
On day two, the topic arose again, and Bowles said point-blank that the back-up job was “up for grabs” if the other quarterbacks play well.
Exactly how things unfold remains to be seen, but what we have at this very moment, is a starting QB that Bowles fully expects to start week one barring any unforeseen circumstance, with his back-up, Geno Smith, being told his spot isn’t nearly as secure.
While Bowles’ statement may come as a surprise to some onlookers, it really shouldn’t.
It was at the end of last season when Bowles said Fitzpatrick would retain the starting job if he were to return in 2016 and then followed that by saying Bryce Petty would be given a chance to win the number two job, which of course, would have bumped Smith down to number three on the depth chart. While Jets fans and media whipped themselves into a frenzy over the off-season as Fitzpatrick’s contract negotiations played out, that statement from Bowles seemed to be forgotten, as some fans assumed the back-up job would be handed to Smith.
The good news for Smith, is that if the first two days of camp are any indication of how the depth chart will settle, he doesn’t have much to worry about. Even having misfired on several deep balls on day one and throwing an interception during the team’s “two-minute drill” on day two, Smith has still been much better than either Petty or rookie QB Christian Hackenberg in the (very) early going.
Smith may not have the starting job he’d hoped for, but he’s well on his way to making Bowles’ decision regarding the number two job an easy one, something that’s unlikely to change once pre-season play gets under way.