If it were up to Curtis Martin, the Jets would have a full-fledged competition to decide their starting quarterback: Open it up for Geno Smith and Michael Vick and see who comes out on top at the end of training camp, says the Jets' Hall of Fame running back.
"I think I would really have a genuine, whoever-wins-the-competition-in-camp type competition and whoever wins, that's who would start," Martin said Wednesday after being honored in New York as a Father of the Year by the National Father's Day Council. Proceeds from the event benefited the Save The Children Foundation. "There would be no favorites. It would just be whoever wins."
The Jets have been vague about just how open a competition there will be between Vick and Smith, although it doesn't appear that it will be the kind of wide-open affair Martin would like to see. But the Jets' all-time leading rusher believes it's in everyone's best interests to see who comes out on top in a fair fight.
"I think Vick is definitely a great addition, and I think that him and Geno will make each other better," said Martin, still looking fit enough to play in the NFL, although he said he still experiences knee and shoulder problems associated with his career. "Vick being an older guy, I know that, as competitive as he is, he's not going to want to sit on the bench. So I know he's going to push to be that starter as hard as possible. I think Geno is not going to want to lose his position, so I think it's great for competition and may the best man win."
Martin won't speculate which quarterback will be the Week 1 starter but suggested a lot will depend on how far Smith progresses in his second NFL season and whether that's good enough to overcome Vick's experience.
"I just know Mike and I know his experience, but guys can take huge leaps from one year to the next," Martin said.
As for Vick fitting in with his new teammates, Martin said it won't be a problem. He has known Vick for several years, and visited with the former Falcons quarterback while he served a jail sentence for running an illegal dogfighting operation.
"I've known him and I've spoken to him, and I went and visited him when he was in jail in Leavenworth," Martin said. "I just wanted to talk to him. It went really, really well. He's a kindhearted guy, really. He's a good guy. He just got caught up in the wrong thing."
Martin, who was selected for the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2012, likes what he sees from the free-agent signing of former Broncos wide receiver Eric Decker as well.
"I think Decker is someone who is a very necessary part," Martin said. "I think they need that type of guy. He's just a blue-collar type of guy. He just gets the job done and makes plays. I think he will be good for them."
Martin is bullish on the Jets' playoff chances, but he understands things can change in a hurry.
"I think they have the potential to get there," he said. "They have the pieces. I think it's how they come together and how it plays out on the field. But just being in the league as long as I have, you just never know. All it takes is one injury and that can ruin everything."
Martin has firsthand experience. After helping the Jets to the AFC Championship Game after the 1998 season, Martin saw quarterback Vinny Testaverde suffer a season-ending Achilles injury in the first game of the 1999 season. The Jets went 8-8 and missed the playoffs.
Martin never got further than the AFC Championship Game with the Jets, same as current coach Rex Ryan, who went to the conference title game his first two seasons. But Martin believes Ryan, who hasn't had a winning season the last three years, is still the right man for the job.
"He's already done it," Martin said of Ryan. "They didn't have the best talent when they went to the AFC Championship Game those two years. Do I think he can do it? Yes. Do I think he's the man that can still lead this team? Yes, I do."