Should the Jets Bench Geno Smith?
Playing a rookie quarterback isn’t the fantasy it once was. We’ve seen handfuls of them succeed over the last decade, many leading their respective teams to the playoffs.
It’s worked for NFL organizations. They not only are able to help their future franchise passer gain experience, but they’re winning while doing so. They’re killing two birds with one stone.
For the 2013 Jets, you could make the argument that no birds are dying with their rookie quarterback situation. Sure, the Jets are 5-6 and “in the hunt” for that last wild-card spot in the AFC. And yes, Geno Smith is gaining experience. But is it possible that New York’s current is situation doing more harm than good for Smith? Should the Jets let the kid look forward to 2014 instead of being pulverized in 2013?
The Jets 2013 Season
From a numbers perspective, the Jets 5-6 record doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
This mostly has to do with the fact that they’ve won their five games by a combined 19 points. When they win, they barely win. BUt when they lose, well, it sometimes gets ugly.
The team started off the season by winning every other game, and they did it with strong defense. Below is a chart displaying their Adjusted Defensive Net Expected Points ranking week by week (cumulative), as well as their offensive one. Keep in mind, this metric is adjusted for strength of schedule. You’ll see, very quickly, how one-sided the Jets have performed.
|Week||Adj. NEP Rank||Adj. DNEP Rank|
While the offense has just been bad all year, the defense has been gradually getting worse. For the first four weeks of the season, the Jets owned a top-five defense. Now, after Week 12, the Jets defense ranks 13th in the league, playing below expectation.
The Offensive Struggle
Rather than digging into an average defense, let’s look at the real problem the Jets are having: they can’t move the ball effectively on offense.
The biggest issue, as you might have guessed, is their quarterback play. So far this year, only the Jaguars have combined to have a worse Adjusted Passing NEP score, playing over 81 points below expectation. Put in an average passer for the Jags, and you’d see a solid 81-point swing in their favor.
The Jets Adjusted PNEP this year is about 14 points better than the Jags, but still second worst in the league. But Geno Smith, since he’s the only quarterback that’s consistently played for his team (Jacksonville’s seen Chad Henne and Blaine Gabbert), is the worst quarterback in the NFL this year. By far.
So far this season, Geno has a Passing Net Expected Points total of -82.09. Of the quarterbacks with at least 250 drop backs, that’s by far the worst in the league. Eli Manning is closest with a score of -37.86, which is more than twice as as efficient as Smith.
What's in the water in New York this year? Interceptions?
The simple reason for Geno's lack of success is due to turnovers. A quick glance shows you that Geno Smith's touchdown-to-interception ratio is atrocious, which doesn't help his NEP. If you’ve read up on Net Expected Points before, you know that the idea behind it is to take the Expected Point values for teams on a particular drive, and find how a player contributes to that value. When a quarterback turns the ball over, he’s essentially handing the other team points.
For some perspective, Brandon Weeden’s compiled a 31.03 Passing NEP on 251 drop backs; he’s effectively losing 0.12 points for the Browns each time he goes to pass.
Sounds horrible, right? Well, Geno Smith’s almost twice as bad, surrendering .23 points with each drop back. That’s how bad it’s been for him this year.
If Geno keeps this up (he’s losing 7.46 points for the Jets each game - more than a touchdown), he’d finish with a Passing NEP of -119.40. Of all the quarterbacks we’ve analyzed since 2000, that would be the third-worst mark, only better than David Carr’s 2002 campaign and JaMarcus Russell’s 2009 one.
Yes. Yes, Geno Smith is the reason this offense is bad.
Do You Bench Geno?
The Jets are obviously still in the hunt, but their downward trend isn’t giving fans much hope. Though their defense has performed above average at times, it's dropped lately, falling to a mediocre one.
And their current playoff odds sit at just 2.8%, 23rd-best in the NFL. Despite having fewer wins, the Browns and Bills have a better chance to make the playoffs this year than the Jets do.
This all leads to the big question: Should the Jets bench Geno Smith?
Given their current playoff odds, it doesn't seem like it would be worthwhile. For a few reasons, actually. First, if you believe he's a franchise quarterback, you're going to want to give him some experience. That's obvious. Second, it's important to remember that today's NFL is a time-sensitive one. What I mean here is that you can't just always throw a guy on the bench and expect him to learn with time. That, at times, creates a larger investment, and brings on the assumption that he's going to turn the corner when he eventually gets his shot again.
And who's going to replace him?
I'm afraid, however, the bigger question Jets fans should be asking is, "What if this is Geno Smith? What if this is our future?"
While we always are willing to blame sample size for rookie struggles, the numbers aren't telling a lie. Geno Smith is on pace to have a historically bad NFL season at the quarterback position.
And looking at other quarterbacks who have performed this poorly shows me that there may not be the type of future for Smith that most want. When your top statistical comparables are David Carr, Chris Weinke, Bruce Gradkowski, Blaine Gabert and Kyle Boller, you know you’re in bad shape.
As with anything else in the NFL, things can turn around in an instant. But if you're a Smith believer, you better start believing he gets this thing turned around quickly.