Three interceptions, a lost fumble and a seat on the bench: some days are better than others for Jets quarterback Geno Smith. The rookie’s 8:16 touchdown-to-interception ratio leaves much to be desired for a second-rounder who threw just six picks in his senior year of college. He’s leading an offense that has scored the second-fewest offensive touchdowns in the league in 2014. In spite of Smith’s recent play, he’s thrown eight interceptions compared to just one touchdown since Week Six, some Jets’ fans are questioning his benching Sunday.
It wasn’t a matter of benching Geno for poor play: everyone knew he was the worst player on the field. It’s a matter of confidence ,and something Jets fans have seen before. Are the Jets dissolving the prospects of another young quarterback that has showed promise a la Mark Sanchez? Just the opposite. Geno Smith’s benching on Sunday will ultimately give the rookie quarterback confidence as the season goes on and was not a detrimental moment to his future as the Jets’ starter.
Many people say that Geno shouldn’t have taken a seat because, as a rookie, he needs to get the experience of playing and enduring struggle. Peyton Manning, Eli Manning and Matthew Stafford, to name a few examples, all struggled starting as rookies, were never benched and are now franchise quarterbacks. On top of that, fans have watched Mark Sanchez’s career spiral downward after the Jets sporadically expressed confidence in him and they don’t want the same to happen for Geno.
While Geno does need to get experience, Sunday was not the type of experience he needed. Playing through adversity can be helpful, but also hurtful. He was injured early on in the game and failed to establish any sort of rhythm with his receivers, which led to him throwing some of the most head-scratching interceptions we’ve seen all season. In this sort of situation, a quarterback, especially a young one who has little experience playing against the speed of NFL defenses, doesn’t need to endure 60 minutes of a complete downward spiral of play. Three interceptions and a fumble were enough to show him that it wasn’t his day.
Like a struggling pitcher in baseball, Geno needed to be removed from the game so that he could reestablish confidence off the field in order to return to the field renewed and aware of his previous mistakes. If the Jets played him for all four quarters Sunday, Geno’s play would have only gotten worse and he would have little confidence going into Week 12.
The Jets are taking the right steps to help Smith grow as a pro quarterback and regain his confidence, benching him was a part of this process. They first gave him a vote of confidence Monday by naming him the starter for Week 12, reinforcing the notion that this is Geno’s team. But more importantly, the team isn’t trying to change Geno’s style of play. One of the things that caused Mark Sanchez to lose any sort of belief in his game was when the Jets tried to control how he played the quarterback position. They implemented a “red light, green light” strategy where they’d let Sanchez throw deep only on plays when they told him he could, and it completely backfired, making Sanchez more indecisive and putting a sour end to his Jets career.
The Jets learned from their mistakes, however, and have said they are not going to change Geno’s style of play. He may be struggling, but they know that he needs to make decisions for himself to improve his play, and they’re allowing him to do just that.
It will pay them dividends in the future as Geno takes steps to learn from his mistakes and complete more difficult throws one to two years down the line. A trip to the bench is a confidence drainer for all players, but for Geno Smith a benching was just the type of adversity he needed to face in order to turn his play around in 2014.