Is It Time for the Jets to Start Michael Vick over Geno Smith?

Geno Smith still isn't getting the job done. Would it make sense to give Michael Vick a chance to start?

Through four weeks, the New York Jets are just 1-3 and are currently on a three-game losing streak. According to our nERD scores, which project the number of points a team would win or lose against an average team, they rank 26th in the league.

To be astute, their offense isn't great. Under Geno Smith, the Jets have just the 23rd-best offense overall, and in terms of Adjusted Passing Net Expected Points, the Jets as a team rank 26th in the league.

The offense is struggling, and Geno's passing isn't helping matters. The Jets still have a 10.5% chance to make the playoffs - obviously not great odds - but all other teams in the AFC East are only 2-2, and the Jets haven't gotten to play any of them yet. There's time for a reversal of fortune, but would it take benching Geno in favor of Michael Vick to turn the tide?

Geno by the Numbers

Since this is numberFire, I'll be using a lot of Net Expected Points (NEP) metrics. NEP is our way of taking player production and quantifying it. The final product, NEP, indicates how many points have been added or subtracted to a team's total as a result of a certain player's production - how well above or below expectation a player performs.

Based on a specific type of NEP, Passing NEP, Geno is well below average compared to other quarterbacks this year. His personal Passing NEP is -2.68. That means he's kept close to a field goal off the board. That may not sound like much, but passing numbers are easily accumulated.

Of the 26 quarterbacks who have attempted at least 100 drop backs so far this year, Geno's Passing NEP ranks 22nd. Smith's Passing NEP per play, which is just his Passing NEP divided by his drop backs (144), is -0.02. That's also 22nd.

It's a bit unfair to compare Geno to more traditional, more efficient passers, so we'll look at Total NEP, which accounts for rushing as well as passing. His Total NEP is only 2.22. A lot of that was affected by his goal-line fumble in Week 1, but despite having the 12th-most drop backs in the NFL, he ranks only 21st in Total NEP of those 26 quarterbacks with 100 or more drop backs.

You don't necessarily need to turn to the advanced metrics to know that a quarterback who was more interceptions (5) than touchdowns (4) isn't doing a great job, but it's evident, based on Net Expected Points scores, that Geno is, at best, a top-24 quarterback right now.

Geno's Rookie Woes

Surprisingly, Geno Smith has been the focal point of some pretty extensive research at numberFire.

Unsurprisingly, very little of the findings have been positive.

JJ Zachariason actually looked the the thought process behind benching Geno last November. Then, in the offseason, Zachariason explored Smith's season more fully. The results are bad.

Per Zachariason, Smith had the 28th-worst passing season since 2000. Geno posted a Passing NEP of -68.55 - only 38 quarterbacks since 2000 have been at -60.00 or worse. Zachariason concluded that Smith has, roughly, a 15% chance to turn into a top-20 passer in the NFL for even a single season.

Since he's just 22nd among quarterbacks with 100 or more drop backs, he's slightly behind that pace, but he's just 30th in Passing NEP and Passing NEP per play if you include all quarterbacks who had 20 or more drop backs so far this year.

There are very few ways to spin this positively, and Geno's struggles are once again a detriment to the Jets. There's a chance that Geno just isn't the answer.

Can Vick Be Better?

Of course, none of this matters much if Michael Vick isn't a viable option.

I can't vouch for Vick's long-term health, familiarity with the offense, or rapport with the Jets offense as a whole, but I can provide some of the numbers he's been able to produce throughout his career.

Instead of dating the entire way back to 2001, I'll focus on Vick's most recent four seasons from 2010 to 2013. There is a natural breaking point in his career because he dropped back to pass just 12 times in his only season between 2007 and 2009. These four years, though, adequately show how polarizing Vick can be.

Here are his Passing NEP, Passing NEP per play, and Total NEP scores as well as their ranks compared to quarterbacks with at least 100 drop backs in that same season.

SeasonPass NEPRankPass NEP/PRankTotal NEPRank
20135.2624 (of 45)0.032411.1723
2012-1.8725 (of 39)0.0025-3.5126
201150.8812 (of 47)0.111175.4412
201056.8111 (of 46)0.1411108.017

In those four seasons, Vick was a better passer than Geno currently is this year and definitely better than Geno was in 2013. Despite being significantly worse in 2012 and 2013 than in 2010 and 2011, Vick has been much better compared to Geno as a passer.

Remember that Geno finished 2013 with an atrocious Passing NEP of -68.55. And remember that a quarterback has posted a Passing NEP worse than -60.00 only 38 times since 2000. Vick has never done that.

He has, though, had some awful years passing, including Passing NEPs of -52.93 (in 2001), -57.77 (in 2004), and -45.32 (in 2006). Vick's passing numbers have improved significantly ever since (as discussed above).

So, really, there are reasons to see a lot of Vick in Geno, including terrible Passing NEP scores in his rookie year.

As bad as Geno was, Vick was, in a way, even worse.

Since 2000, there have been 629 instances in which a quarterback attempted at least 100 drop backs. Vick's Passing NEP per play of -0.39 in his rookie year ranks 619th. Geno last year was 519th.

Jets on the Ground

But what about rushing? Both guys are capable runners, but it would be a bit absurd to think Geno was on Vick's level, right?

Well, here are their Rushing NEP and Rushing NEP per play numbers and ranks compared to players with at least 16 carries that year. Keep in mind that Geno's 2014 rank and Rushing NEP could still fluctuate greatly.

PlayerSeasonRush NEPRankRush NEP/PRank
Smith20144.9012 (of 64)0.236
Smith201324.615 (of 124)0.388
Vick20135.9031 (of 124)0.1821
Vick2012-1.6479 (of 144)-0.0380
Vick201124.563 (of 140)0.336
Vick201051.201 (of 140)0.533

I know it's easy to point to Vick's age and note that his recent rushing has taken a hit because of it. But Vick was, without a doubt, an absolutely elite rusher throughout his career. These ranks are so high (excluding Vick's 2012 and 2013 season) because, generally, quarterbacks have the advantage of rushing in positive situations.

Vick was a top-three rusher in both 2010 and 2011. Geno was top five last year and is currently top 12. Per-play, he's even better.

Per-play, Geno is and was an elite player on the ground, just like Vick has tended to be throughout his career. Geno's rushing successes are his only redeeming quality though, and until his passing improves, he will be reliant on his rushing to provide any real positive impact on the Jets offense.

But even with that Rushing ability, Geno's Total NEP in 2013 was -42.87. That's 44th out of 45 quarterbacks with 100 or more drop backs. By comparison, Vick has only had two negative Total NEP seasons: -25.30 in his rookie year and -3.51 in 2012.

So What's the Right Call?

The right answer, really, lies in how the Jets perceive themselves. If they want to win now, Vick is the right choice based on his expected passing ability, which is much greater than Geno's is currently even though Smith is by far the superior rusher based on data since 2012. Vick, overall, has been a proven talent who can post positive NEP numbers for his team.

If the Jets want to play for the future, leaving Geno in may not be entirely futile even though fans may be frustrated with his play. Vick has overcome one of the worst per-play passing seasons since 2000 to become a relatively efficient passer while being an elite rusher.

While it's too early to tell, Geno might be trending the right way in 2014, and he could be on the verge of breaking into the top 20 in terms of passing. That, in addition to his rushing ability, might actually be able to take the Jets further than even Vick could - if they're willing to wait and see if he can still do it.