I had a dream last night about the Jets making it to the Super Bowl. Before you ask, yes, I am that crazy of a fan and yes, I know that will probably stay a dream for quite some time given my team’s glorious history.
However, the team – on paper – isn’t that far off from a run to the title. They have a strong defensive front, improved speed and agility in the linebacking core, play-making wide receivers, and an aging, but skilled group of running backs.
There’s just that problem of a gaping hole at what most sane people consider the most important position – quarterback.
The rest of the team is primed to win right now. Brandon Marshall, arguably a top-10 wide receiver in the game is 32 years old. Matt Forte, the newly signed running back, will hit 31 in December. Their defensive star at cornerback, Darrelle Revis, turns 31 in a few days.
These core group of players have 1, 2, 3 years at the very most, barring tragic injury, left to make an impact in this league.
This year is also surprisingly open for the Jets to make a run, especially if the NFL holds its ground. I’m not diving into the black hole that is Deflategate, but at this present moment Tom Brady is suspended for four games. Peyton Manning is retired and the Super Bowl-defending Denver Broncos might be only slightly better at quarterback than the Jets, (I’m looking at you, Mark Sanchez).
Ben Roethlisberger is 34. Andrew Luck is coming off an injury plagued season that could generously be described as dismal. The Bengals have remained intact but what does that mean – another early playoff exit? Yes, you can argue the Bills and Dolphins have improved a bit, but the Jets realistically have a shot to make a run this year.
Except for the fact that their current trio in the running for quarterback is Geno Smith, Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg.
I was terrified the Jets were going to draft either Paxton Lynch or Hackenberg, and while they avoided the first one, they took Hackenberg in the second round.
To say, I’m a little skeptical of his abilities would be an understatement, but I am praying he proves me wrong. I’m praying he can channel his freshman year numbers and put the last bit of his college career behind him. I’m praying he succeeds.
However, even if I was an eternal optimist about Hackenberg, I would still say he needs bare minimum a year or two to learn and develop before they thrust him into a starting. Look at the quarterbacks who have enjoyed recent success after riding the bench for a few years – Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Eli Manning, Philip Rivers.
So, say the Jets are smart, and give him time to develop, that leaves us with Bryce Petty who has never started an NFL game and Geno Smith, who I could spend months writing about. Smith has had one of the most up-and-down NFL careers ever and is poised to get the starting role handed to him, again. For what feels like the 10th time, he’s getting another opportunity and frankly his play and his off-the-field behavior haven’t exactly earned it.
If the season started today, Geno Smith would be the Jets starting quarterback. Thankfully, we have about two months left, before that becomes a reality.
The only thing stopping that from becoming real life, however, is Ryan Fitzpatrick. Ah yes. Last year’s starting hero, the 10-6 “Fitzmagic” as he was dubbed by the fans.
He can be the savior of this team, he can come back and return to a system he knows well, to teammates who are begging for his return. He can help the Jets compete right now as he, at 33 years old, has experience as an NFL quarterback and has proven he can (sort of) win.
The only issue is the Jets will not pay him his asking price. Let me be clear right now, a journey-man quarterback like Fitzpatrick who has been decidedly average his whole career usually wouldn’t be worth $12 million guaranteed.
I blame the high price on the Eagles and their inane decision to ink up Sam Bradford, a quarterback not that much above Fitzpatrick’s level, to a crazy 2-year, $36 million contract that includes $26 million guaranteed. That’s just absurd and sorry Sam, you’re not worth that money.
But the problem is Fitzpatrick has all of the leverage. All of it. Yes, to be fair, other quarterbacks have signed in the other possible landing spots for him, like Denver and Houston. However, the Jets are desperate and he knows it.
GM Mike Maccagnan and head coach Todd Bowles can look me dead in the eye and tell me they are confident with Smith at quarterback until they are blue in the face, but that won’t help me believe it one bit.
The Jets are scared of that possibility. Brandon Marshall is scared of that possibility, even though he’s softened his tone as these negotiations have dragged on through eternity.
It’s sad to say the Jets desperately need a quarterback who has played for five different teams and never really had a ton of success. He’s been good, solid, never great or spectacular and definitely not splashy. Still, the Jets need him to avoid utter disaster.
Missing an opportunity to capitalize on a year that might include a hamstrung Patriots team for four games would be devastating. This team hasn’t sniffed playoff success since 2010 and then the Steelers stomped all over those hopes and dreams. This could be their year – or maybe I could be crazy – or even both. Still, without Fitzpatrick, kiss those wishes goodbye.