FLORHAM PARK, New Jersey — The New York Jets will have a quarterback competition, after all. Well, sort of.
After some headline-making comments by offensive coordinator Chan Gailey caused some confusion and controversy last week, coach Todd Bowles clarified things a bit Wednesday.
Yes, Geno Smith is the starter right now. No, that doesn't guarantee that he'll be the starter in Week 1 of the season.
"I view it as an open competition, with Geno being the starter," Bowles said after the Jets held organized team activities. "It's his to lose."
That differed a bit from what Gailey said a week ago, when he declared that the Jets aren't heading into camp with a quarterback competition and that the team expects Smith to be the starter in Week 1 barring "something that you don't foresee," such as an injury. Bowles has said throughout the offseason that Smith will enter camp taking the first-team snaps, without declaring him the unquestioned starter.
Despite the apparent mixed signals, Bowles said he and Gailey are on the same page on the issue — just that Gailey is a "very bottom-line, matter-of-fact, very positive guy." Bowles said in Gailey's view, with Ryan Fitzpatrick still recovering from a broken leg suffered last December and Bryce Petty being drafted in the fourth round, there wouldn't be much of a competition starting out.
"He's the starter, he's the first-team guy — we're saying the same thing," Bowles said. "We both understand that there's competition when camp comes."
Bowles added that Smith's performance in practices and during the preseason will dictate what the Jets do at quarterback.
"If he's playing well, he's the starter," Bowles said of Smith. "If he's not playing well and somebody's playing better, as is with any other position, somebody else is going to play. But you don't start out camp having two or three guys on the first team."
Bowles prefers to allow the projected starter to get into a rhythm running the first-team offense with the rest of the starters, rather than splitting snaps in a 50-50 type of scenario.
Fitzpatrick figures to be the main competition for Smith this summer, with Petty, Matt Simms and undrafted free agent Jake Heaps also on the roster. Fitzpatrick is working his way back from a broken leg that ended his season last December, and the veteran quarterback participated in 11-on-11 team drills Wednesday for the first time this offseason.
Fitzpatrick would figure to have a slight edge at this stage because he played under Gailey for three years in Buffalo. But the Jets appear willing to give Smith every opportunity to prove that he deserves to retain the starting job.
"We understand that Fitzpatrick has been in the league for years," Bowles said. "He's a good player and a solid quarterback and he probably knows the system. But we understand that Geno has a lot of talent, too, and he's a third-year player.
"We're going to let it play out and see what happens."
Smith was unfazed when asked what it means to him that his head coach said the starting job is his to lose.
"I've always felt like it was my job to go out there and try and lead this team," Smith said. "That's the way I look at it. I don't think that's going to change. My approach isn't going to change. I look at myself as the type of guy that can lead this team."
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