Free-fall­ing Jets turn to Smith

For­mer start­ing quar­ter­back gets task of turn­ing around 1-5 team’s for­tunes

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - SPORTS - By Den­nis Waszak Jr. AP Sports Writer

Fitz Magic fiz­zled, so it’s Geno Smith’s turn — again.

The New York Jets will start Smith at quar­ter­back on Sun­day against the Bal­ti­more Ravens at MetLife Sta­dium, send­ing Ryan Fitz­patrick and his one-year, $12 mil­lion con­tract to the sideline.

“I felt like it was time for a change,” coach Todd Bowles said after prac­tice Wed­nes­day.

At the NFL fall meet­ings in Hous­ton, Jets owner Woody John­son said it was Bowles’ call to go with Smith, with the Jets sink­ing at 1-5 and on a four-game los­ing streak.

“I am be­hind the coach 100 per­cent,” John­son said. “Our coach made the de­ci­sion he felt needed to be made.”

Bowles con­firmed that it was “strictly my call.”

Fitz­patrick has been a ma­jor rea­son for the Jets’ strug­gles, throw­ing an NFL-lead­ing 11 in­ter­cep­tions and just five touch­down passes dur­ing a bru­tal start.

After the Jets lost 28-3 at Ari­zona on Mon­day night, Bowles said Fitz­patrick would re­main the starter. But he back­tracked

a bit Tues­day dur­ing a con­fer­ence call , say­ing it’s al­ways “sta­tus quo” right after games and he wanted to dis­cuss things with his staff and gen­eral man­ager Mike Maccagnan that night. Dur­ing those meet­ings, Bowles de­cided to go with Smith.

“Geno’s our starter right now,” Bowles said. “We’ll see how things go down the line.”

Bowles added that it’s pos­si­ble the Jets could turn to Fitz­patrick again at some point.

“I can only go week to week,” the coach said.

Smith was the Jets’ starter last sum­mer un­til his jaw was bro­ken by a punch from then-team­mate Ike­me­funa Enemk­pali dur­ing train­ing camp. Fitz­patrick then took over and went on to throw a fran­chise-record 31 touch­down passes and get within a win of the play­offs at 10-6.

After gar­ner­ing lit­tle in­ter­est in the free-agent mar­ket, Fitz­patrick re­signed with the Jets on the eve of train­ing camp, a move most Jets play­ers celebrated . Fitz­patrick has had a rough go of it this sea­son, in­clud­ing a six-in­ter­cep­tion per­for­mance at Kansas City on Sept. 25

but still ap­peared to have the sup­port of most of his team­mates.

New York’s of­fen­sive woes were hard for Bowles to over­look, though. The Jets rank 26th over­all and are last in the NFL in scor­ing with 15.8 points per game. Their red-zone of­fense is also worst in the league, scor­ing just eight touch­downs in 22 trips inside the op­po­nents’ 20yard line (36.4 per­cent).

Smith tried to stay pa­tient, but he told an ESPN re­porter be­fore the game Mon­day night that he was get­ting antsy while being stuck on the sideline as the team strug­gles.

Now, Smith will have a chance to re­vive both his ca­reer and the Jets’ play­off hopes.

Smith last started a game in the 2014 sea­son fi­nale at Mi­ami, where he threw for 358 yards and three touch­downs while com­pil­ing a per­fect 158.3 quar­ter­back rat­ing in a 3714 win.

In his first game ac­tion since that out­ing, Smith re­placed Fitz­patrick in the fourth quar­ter against the Car­di­nals and con­nected on his first four passes. On third-and-3 from the Car­di­nals 40, Smith fum­bled as he was sacked, but the Jets re­cov­ered. He was in­ter­cepted by Tyrann Mathieu on the next play, the Jets’ fi­nal of­fen­sive pos­ses­sion.

SETH WENIG — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Jets quar­ter­back Geno Smith jogs dur­ing the team’s prac­tice in Florham, N.J., on Wed­nes­day.

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