With training camp right around the corner, the New York Jets will enter the 2016 season with uncertainty at quarterback, as Ryan Fitzpatrick’s contract dispute continues to drag on.
Fitzpatrick, who’s proposal of a one-year deal worth $12 million guaranteed in June was rejected, has been completely missing in the eyes of the Jets. He hasn’t even texted back his teammate Brandon Marshall, so Fitzpatrick is sticking to his word.
Clearly the Jets think that $12 million guaranteed for one season is too much for Fitzpatrick, but it doesn’t appear that they have a trustworthy option on their roster.
The Jets are at a crossroads, do you overpay for an average quarterback who overachieved for one season, or do you bite the bullet and ride it out with the unreliable/inexperienced quarterbacks you have now?
It’s a tough question, and unfortunately for the Jets I don’t think there’s a right answer.
Before last season, Fitzpatrick was known as an NFL journeyman who’d appeared mostly as a backup. With stops in St. Louis, Cincinnati, Buffalo and Tennessee, Fitzpatrick’s only long-term starting job was with the Bills, where he wasn’t terrible, but he certainly wasn’t good enough to guide the Bills to the playoffs, or even a winning record for that matter.
In 2014, Fitzpatrick helped the Texans secure a 9-7 season, but his stats were pedestrian (2,483 yards, 17 TDs and 8 INTs) and of the nine games won by the Texans, three were with Fitzpatrick out due to injuries.
However, Fitzpatrick’s luck changed last season when Geno Smith broke his jaw in a locker room altercation, forcing him to sit out the beginning of the season.
Handed the opportunity to be the starter Fitzpatrick flourished, leading the team to a 10-6 record in a season he threw for 3,905 yards and 31 touchdowns, both of which were career highs.
So Fitzpatrick performed well in 2015, but considering his whole career, there is not evidence to suggest that he will produce the same way next season.
And Fitzpatrick certainly had help, with 1,000 yard running back in Chris Ivory, two Pro Bowl wideouts in Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker and a defense that was 4th in yards allowed and 2nd in rushing yards allowed.
Basically, the Jets don’t want to pay a high price for Ryan Fitzpatrick, even if its just for a year, because they think he is an average quarterback.
Even if the Jets do cave in and pay Fitzpatrick what he wants, there’s no guarantee that he’ll even be good. So even though Fitzpatrick played well last year, his average performance in the past and age do not help him in negotiations.
All that said, Fitzpatrick is by far the best option the Jets have.
Fitzpatrick, 33, may be average, but he certainly isn’t below average, and that can’t be said for the other three quarterbacks on the Jets roster.
Let’s start with Geno Smith, the presumptive starter for New York. Coming into his fourth season, Smith has thrown for 27 career touchdowns against 35 interceptions. After missing most of last season, maybe Smith takes a leap this year, but anytime you are relying on a guy who’s thrown more interceptions than touchdowns in his career, it probably won’t work out well.
And let’s not forget that he got punched in the face last training camp. Smith probably didn’t deserve to be punched, but what does that say about Smith’s maturity if he’s falling to the lowest common denominator by putting himself in a potentially violent situation, not to mention the leadership questions it raises.
With his abysmal touchdown to interception ratio and suspect maturity, the Jets probably aren’t jumping for joy imagining Geno Smith starting week one.
Next would be second round pick Christian Hackenberg, who is very intriguing. Hackenberg has a rocket arm and the measurables (6’4″, 228 lbs) to be a productive NFL quarterback.
Unfortunately for New York, Hackenberg was not amazing in college and in three years at Penn State he never reached a 60 percent completion rate. Yes, Hackenberg’s offensive line wasn’t good, but most second round picks have the ability to put up decent college stats despite being around poor personnel.
In fact, Hackenberg was so average last season that Pro Football Focus did not even give him a draftable grade.
Bryce Petty rounds out the Jets quarterbacks. Petty has yet to throw a pass in the NFL so the jury is still out on him, but apparently he was okay in OTAs.
So the Jets are either stuck with overpaying an average Fitzpatrick (if he even comes back to camp) or starting off the season with below average Geno Smith, rookie Christian Hackenberg or unproven Bryce Petty.
The Jets management has a tough task ahead and no matter what they do it could be viewed as a mistake.