Free-falling Jets turn to Smith
Former starting quarterback gets task of turning around 1-5 team’s fortunes
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.
Jets quarterback Geno Smith jogs during the team’s practice in Florham, N.J., on Wednesday.