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The Signing of Michael Vick Sets The Tone For Another New York Jets Quarterback Blunder

It’s happened before. The Jets’ signing of Michael Vick to push second-year quarterback Geno Smith could have disastrous consequences.

Michael Vick
Michael Vick

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Does lightning strike twice? For the New York Jets’ sake, it better not.

The team is just putting the Mark Sanchez chapter behind it and investing fully in second-year pro Geno Smith. But now the signing of free-agent quarterback Michael Vick over the weekend may ultimately prove to be the first step in yet another quarter conundrum in New York.

The Jets reportedly signed Vick because the team is in “win now” mode, and whether Vick pushes Smith for the starting job for competition’s sake or replaces him if the sophomore slips up early on, it’s not good for the young quarterback’s confidence level.

Rex Ryan used to threaten to start Mark Brunell when Sanchez was in a rut, and perhaps that motivated Sanchez to prepare a little harder in practice leading up to game day. But that’s a quick fix, not a permanent solution. General manager John Idzik was a part of the Seattle Seahawks’ front office when the team signed Tarvaris Jackson and Matt Flynn, then drafted Russell Wilson in the third round of the draft. The competition did force Wilson to earn a starting gig over two veterans, but then again, this is a different type of scenario.

Smith is already the starter. He won it last season. A training camp competition could spark Smith to bring his A game, theoretically, but if he loses out to Vick then what will that do his confidence? How can you ever turn back to him down the road?

Conversely, what if Smith does win the job over Vick, then if the team starts out 1-4 and opts to replace Smith with Vick. Unless Vick returns to his Pro Bowl form and reinvigorates the team and reverses its fortune, can you justify the move? What if Vick gets hurt two games into his starting stint, as history may indicate; is Smith going to return to the lineup eager to contribute or will his confidence be shattered?

According to Jets owner Woody Johnson, Smith remains the No. 1 quarterback on the depth chart, but stopped there when describing how the competition between the two quarterbacks will play out throughout the year. Apparently the team, which finished 8-8 in 2013, is in “win now” mode and refuses to be “patient” anymore. Johnson stated the addition of Vick is a consequence of that sentiment.

In terms of football, having a capable veteran behind a second-year quarterback is the right move. Obviously, we have not considered what the team — which apparently is a contender — would do if its quarterback was injured on the first snap of the season and was without offensive pilot. Then, having Vick waiting in the winds seems like a genius decision.

There’s a worst-case scenario, as I laid out earlier, that Smith’s confidence is shattered and his play on the field suffers as a result of Vick’s presence. It wasn’t too long ago when after Sanchez brought the Jets to back-to-back AFC Championship games that fans were calling for Greg McElroy and Matt Simms to take over at quarterback in place of the former No. 6 overall pick.

But there’s also a best-case scenario. Like Wilson and the Seahawks, competition between Smith and Vick could force the younger Smith to prepare more, work harder and motivate him to convincingly win the starting job and play like it’s always on the line. Vick has been on contenders with the Atlanta Falcons and Philadelphia Eagles, and is fully capable of being a mentor to Smith, much like he was last year with Nick Foles.

Jets fans should hope for the latter, because if the franchise screws up another young quarterback it is asking to be set back another three or four years, just like what has happened with the Cleveland Browns and Brandon Weeden, Minnesota Vikings and Christian Ponder, and the Oakland Raiders with Terrelle Pryor. Keep in mind those teams are all picking the top five and seemingly have a high first-round selection year in and year out.

Giving your quarterback ample opportunity to succeed is the key, not pressuring him by threatening to take away his job. The signing of Vick holds a lot of risk and a lot of reward. We’ll see what direction it goes.

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