The New York Jets made some waves in Western New York earlier this offseason by adding the talents of two former Buffalo Bills notables to their offense: former Bills head coach Chan Gailey is now the Jets' offensive coordinator, and the team also flipped a late draft pick to Houston for the rights to quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Naturally, there was some thought that Gailey and Fitzpatrick - who worked together in Buffalo from 2010-12 - would be the Jets' chosen play-caller and quarterback combination for the 2015 season. But speaking with Jets beat reporters on Wednesday, Gailey instead noted that a quarterback competition was never a thought, while doing everything short of officially naming Geno Smith the team's starting quarterback.
Chan Gailey on Geno Smith: "He's a very talented guy... I have high hopes for him." #nyj— Manish Mehta (@MMehtaNYDN) May 20, 2015
Gailey: "Right now, Geno is the starter... And the way we expect it to be." So, it will be Geno's job to lose #nyj— Manish Mehta (@MMehtaNYDN) May 20, 2015
So, there will not be a QB competition entering training camp. Gailey says Geno Smith will "probably" be Jets Week 1 starter vs Browns— Manish Mehta (@MMehtaNYDN) May 20, 2015
Gailey stresses that Geno "can make every throw in the book" which is hard to find. #nyj— Manish Mehta (@MMehtaNYDN) May 20, 2015
Gailey on Geno Smith: "I don't know how good he can be... He can be pretty good." #nyj— Manish Mehta (@MMehtaNYDN) May 20, 2015
Chan Gailey says "it wasn't a thought" to have a QB competition. It will be Geno's job. "We saw a lot of talent on film" #nyj— Manish Mehta (@MMehtaNYDN) May 20, 2015
It would not have been surprising, necessarily, that the Jets would back the younger, more athletically gifted quarterback in a competition. But the fact that the team washed its hands of a competition on May 20 is a bit of an eye-opener, especially given Gailey's familiarity with Fitzpatrick.
Gailey is widely credited for turning Fitzpatrick into a valued veteran quarterback commodity, and was the coach behind Fitzpatrick's strongest years in Buffalo, including a seven-game stretch at the start of the 2011 season that netted the Harvard product an Offensive Player of the Month award and a $60 million contract extension.
Fitzpatrick, however, appears to be playing second fiddle to Smith, and Gailey has his work cut out for him turning Smith into a viable NFL quarterback. Smith is 1-2 in three career starts against the Bills; let's run through all four of his appearances against Buffalo in his two professional seasons.
Week 3, 2013: Smith completed 16-of-29 passes for two touchdowns and two interceptions, adding a rushing score as well, in a 23-20 win in New Jersey. Take out his stat line throwing toward infamous Bills cornerback Justin Rogers (6-of-9, 254 yards, two touchdowns), and that stat line looks much more pedestrian (10-of-20, 77 yards, two interceptions).
Week 11, 2013: In a blowout, 37-14 loss at the hands of the Bills, Smith completed 8-of-23 passes for 103 yards, with no touchdowns, three interceptions, a lost fumble, and four sacks taken. He was benched in this game in favor of Matt Simms.
Week 8, 2014: For a second consecutive start against Buffalo, Smith is unceremoniously benched. This time, it only took eight throws (and two sacks taken) for the plug to be pulled; Smith completed 2-of-8 passes for five (5) yards with three interceptions in the first quarter of a 43-23 blowout Bills win.
Week 12, 2014: In mop-up duty during the second half of a third straight blowout Bills win (38-3) in Detroit, Smith - spelling Michael Vick - cobbles together a stat line of 10-of-12 passing for 89 yards, with two sacks taken, against Buffalo's reserve defenders.
Godspeed, Coach Gailey - especially with Rex Ryan looking for a bit of revenge against his former employers. Unless, of course, Smith can't hang on to that starting gig through the first Bills-Jets date of 2015, which occurs on the evening of November 12 on Thursday Night Football.