Monday, July 27, 2015

Race politics, wishful thinking and Sanchez-hating the order of the day in Geno love-fest

The NFL season is fast coming upon us, and the soap opera that is the “education” of Geno Smith reality show been renewed for a third season—although by the sounds of it, it seems that it is a little short on the “reality” part, just people playing stupid for the cameras. ESPN’s poll of coaches and NFL insiders have for the second year running ranked Geno last among starting quarterbacks. According to one coach, "Geno is a 5, and that is it. He cannot process fast enough. He is not a natural guy, sliding in the pocket and knowing when to run it. He has some legs to run, but no, he is trying to prove he is a pocket passer. Let's do something at the position before we start limiting ourselves for image."

Image. Therein lies the rub. Geno’s incomprehensible level of support among Jets’ fans, teammates (especially black), most sports commentators and Mark Sanchez-haters are all tied-up in knots that they cannot untangle themselves for fear of looking like what they are—foolish. There is a lot of “hope” that this season Geno will “blossom” into a competent quarterback, now that he has what is being called a talented receiving core, including two head-cases, Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. Marshall is perhaps a better receiving threat than Percy Harvin was, but he has been bouncing around the league (for a reason), and who knows long his “rapport” with Geno will last when his “touches” inevitably fall. And, lest we forget, Decker was there last season.

In the middle of all of this bovine scatology is the endless trashing of Mark Sanchez. The truth of the matter is that he didn't have a have a competent quarterback coach, and still won twice as many playoff games (all on the road) than any other Jets quarterback. Sanchez' playoff QB rating of 94.3 is in the top-10 all time. In 2010, Sanchez had 5 TDs to 1 interception in the playoffs, and it was the Jets defense’s failure to play “big” with the game on the line against Pittsburgh that  cost the team a Super Bowl berth. One apologist says that Sanchez’s numbers don't compare "favorably" to Geno’s, but that is loose talk—just as Darrelle Revis, protecting his "brother," insipidly derided Sanchez’s as not being a “real” quarterback. And Geno is? Does the fact that Sanchez is the only Hispanic quarterback in the league—play a part in all of this?

Back to reality. Every draft scout warned teams that Geno was a likely bust, and Jets fans and Smith's political apologists just can't face the fact. They have to believe that he is better than Sanchez, who proved last year that he was at least a competent quarterback in the right system, even completing 64 percent of his passes and throwing for an average of almost 270 yards per game. People forget just how horrible the Jets' offensive line was his last season (his backup was sacked a team record 11 times in one game). At best, Smith's ability to run can occasionally allow him a lucky big play catching defenses’ off-guard, but he is certainly no Russell Wilson in that regard. Jets fans better just forget about any "improvement" in his decision-making, because it just isn't part of his "game"; the only competent decision he is capable of is run like hell.

However, some local Jets commentators, like Steve Politi, are lamenting that the Jets new management and coaches have already essentially named Smith the starting quarterback, despite the presence of Ryan Fitzpatrick as the “backup.” The new offensive coordinator, Chan Gailey was adamant when asked last May if Smith was expected to actually “compete” for the starting position after two awful years. "No. Wasn't a thought…It's hard to have a quarterback competition going into a season." Gailey noted that Smith was able to make “good decisions” on “clean reads”—meaning making throws to designated receivers without pressure; the euphemisms he used could disguise that reality. Nor can belittling Sanchez make Smith look “better.”

I can’t wait for the season to begin. The NFL never fails to deliver fascinating story lines.

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