The Jets still haven't decided whether it will be Mark Sanchez or Geno Smith as their starting quarterback, but Bart Scott says there's no question in his mind who the starter should be.
"They have to start Sanchez," Scott said Tuesday, shortly after being introduced as an NFL analyst for CBS. The move makes it official that Scott has retired from the NFL after being released by the Jets in the offseason. "You can't put a rookie out there. [Smith] isn't getting enough plays on the field for you to really evaluate it."
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Jets coach Rex Ryan hasn't said which quarterback will start in Saturday's preseason game against the Giants, although it appears as if Smith will get the nod so the team can evaluate him with the starters. But Scott, who played four seasons with Sanchez before being released, believes it's not time for Smith just yet.
"Geno had a chance until he hurt his ankle [in the first preseason game]," Scott said. "I think that injury messed him up. So you don't want to feed him to the wolves too early. The beginning of their schedule is brutal, so you have to go with Mark to try to steal a couple of games in the first half of the season."
And if the Jets struggle during that tough part of the schedule, and Sanchez continues the poor play that has marked his last two seasons?
"Once the boo birds start calling for Geno, [the Jets] are going to give him the opportunity if they're not winning," Scott said. "The second half of the season, the schedule lightens up, so it's easier for Geno to look good against lighter competition. Mark is probably gone after this season anyway, but he's still motivated because he's fighting to make sure he doesn't become a career backup."
Scott said Ryan, who brought the linebacker to New York as his first major free-agent signing in 2009, will survive into next season if the team goes 8-8 or better.
"It's a tough situation, but it's a situation that a lot of coaches find themselves in," Scott said of his former coach. "It happens if you stay around long enough. He's on his fifth year, which makes him one of the longer running head coaches in the league, with the league going young with head coaches. He had great success early and if this thing was flip-flopped, we'd be talking about Rex and what a great job he's doing. When you have success early, you spoil the fans and the community. He understands the situation he's in. He has to win and he has to win now."
Does Ryan have a shot?
"I think they have to withstand the tough schedule early, because it kind of sets him up to be successful if he can steal a couple of those games early," Scott said. "I think the schedule gets a lot softer as his team learns how to play, the new philosophy with [offensive coordinator] Marty Mornhinweg to learn the philosophy of the system. That bodes well for him in that regard, that he can finish strong, as opposed to having an easy schedule early and it looks like a big collapse."
Scott believes the players remain loyal to Ryan and want to play for him.
"I think he still has control of the locker room," Scott said. "I think people love to play for him and they respect him a lot. They want to play for him, but it's going to be difficult. I think 8-8 and he keeps his job. I think that's possible, especially when you look at the second half, but you're going to have to steal a couple early."