Many are already counting Geno Smith out of the quarterback conversation in New York now that his No. 1 supporter and former Jets general manager John Idzik has gotten the ax. But, believe it or not, Smith still has a chance in New York under new head coach Todd Bowles and offensive coordinator Chan Gailey.
Throughout his career, Gailey has been known for taking sub-par quarterbacks and building around them while dealing with plenty of different road blocks. Gailey has worked with some of the league’s top coaches including Dan Reeves (Denver), Bill Cowher (Pittsburgh) and Herm Edwards (Kansas City). One of those coaches told the Associated Press something that could mean good news for Smith.
“When you look at the quarterbacks Chan has had, he’s had all styles and a lot of different types of quarterbacks. The one thing that he’s very good at is putting guys in position where he utilizes guys’ skillsets. He’ll be diverse enough to give different looks, but he’ll play to the strengths of his football team.”
That quote came from Cowher, who worked with Gailey as his offensive coordinator in 1996 and 1997.
Pittsburgh went to the playoffs in both seasons, including the 1997 season when most figured it to be a transitional year with Kordell Stewart at QB. Stewart ended up throwing for 3,020 yards with 21 touchdowns to 17 interceptions in 1997. The key, though, was that the offense leaned on running back Jerome Bettis and had Yancey Thigpen at wide receiver. Thigpen caught 79 passes for 1,398 yards and seven touchdowns, leading him to his second and last Prow Bowl and All-Pro selection.
The same could very well be done in New York.
Smith isn’t necessarily a running QB like Slash was but he can get out and make plays with his legs. That in itself can open up the passing game. The Jets have receivers like Eric Decker and Percy Harvin but could very well use their first round draft pick on a player like Amari Cooper or Kevin White. They could also use a late round pick on a solid running back, giving them an offense that mirrors that of the 1997 Pittsburgh team that was essentially rebuilding but instead made it to the AFC title game.
When Bowles spoke to the media Wednesday, fielding questions about Smith and Gailey, he had this choice statement to say:
“We understand that if Geno’s our guy going forward, we have to get some people around him and do a lot of things better, and Chan is outstanding at that.”
He also said he wanted to “build a championship team” and that they were going to “use all our resources” to make that happen.
With Gailey’s experience, that could very well mean building around a third-year Geno Smith at QB.