By this point, Rex Ryan is considered a lock to commit a healthy number of head-scratching mishaps over the course of a season. As the head man of a squad renowned for its futility, questionable calls come with the territory, and no one pulls off the “nut running the nuthouse” act better than big Rex. Take this last month for example.
Ryan has (literally) turned his back on the press, run his incumbent quarterback ragged during the preseason, and then hailed said incumbent as worthy of a starting spot despite having second rounder Geno Smith waiting in the wings. Smith has done nothing to make himself worthy of starting under center as of yet, but just about any quarterback taken this April could do no worse than Mark Sanchez’ 12/18 touchdown-to-interception line from last season.
Might some coaches have handled the situation better? It’s safe to assume so. Are there obvious points of contention for many of Ryan’s decisions? Certainly. But here the Jets stand, staring down the barrel of another 16 games chock full of beatdowns and butt fumbles. Gang Green didn’t make any meaningful improvements via free agency on the unit that went 6-10 in 2012; in fact, they lost a handful of useful pieces, including shutdown corner Darrelle Revis. New general manager John Idzik expects the organization to start moving in a victorious direction from day one, and no doubt has a short leash on Ryan, who reeks of the days when Mike Tannenbaum was still calling the shots.
The circumstances leave Ryan and his underlings stuck fielding a set of nightmarish demands. Either succeed with a roster that would make the Bad News Bears cringe, or risk immediate termination. For any kind of change to occur, the Jets will be forced to dig deep and gamble to the point of collapse.
They can start by naming Greg McElroy as their week one QB.
Mark Sanchez is out of the question for consideration, or should be if Ryan has any self-preserving bones in his body. Not only does Sanchez have more interceptions than touchdowns and a 6.48 yard average through his first four years, but Jets fans may take to torching beautiful MetLife Stadium if they bear witness to another season of the Sanchize.
Smith, though the best longterm option of the trio, appears raw and unable to command a pro offense in his first year. The cases of Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson and Andrew Luck are great for the game in many respects, as long as fans realize that they’re exceptions rather than the rule. When pundits say that recent quarterbacking classes have experienced unprecedented levels of success, they’re not merely blowing smoke. Drew Brees and Tom Brady logged time in only one game of their respective rookie campaigns, Aaron Rodgers threw for less than 100 yards in three appearances his first year, and Peyton Manning tossed more interceptions than touchdowns in his ribbon-cutting campaign.
All quarterbacks, even the great ones, can benefit from a period of observation before being thrown directly into the fire. Smith’s draft stock was said to have plummeted on draft day because of his lack of NFL readiness. To expedite the integration process with such a mediocre supporting cast is a recipe good for stunting Smith’s growth, and for leaving the majority of contests with a loss.
With Sanchez and Smith both removed from the picture, McElroy enters the mix as the best option to command the field, at least until the next generation has arrived for the Jets. McElroy provides a smidgen of upside himself, as a bonus. It seems hard to believe that the Alabama product is only three years removed from tossing touchdowns to Julio Jones, but he enters the 2013 season at the still-malleable age of 25. His ability as an NFL passer is largely unproven, save for two emergency appearances in 2012.
Efficiency is the primary asset that McElroy brings to the table. In well over 600 attempts as a starter for the Crimson Tide, only nine balls were snatched away by some of the best collegiate competition in the country. Jets fans are accustomed to reckless football under Sanchez, setting up a perfect scenario for an uninspiring game manager to take the reigns. The team has defended at no less than a serviceable level for the entirety of Ryan’s tenure, and they’ll stand a much better chance to hold serve when they’re not force up against their own end zone because of turnovers.
McElroy isn’t likely to shake the title of “stop gap measure” if he gets the nod, but he looks like the most logical choice to start against Buccaneers week one. Even if McElroy flames out as a number one quarterback, there will be plenty of other boneheaded moments in the Big Apple to detract from the debacle.