GLENDALE, Ariz. — Geno Smith paced up and down the sideline, waiting for his chance. Finally, with a little more than eight minutes left in the Cardinals’ blowout victory, the Jets’ coaching staff called his number.
“I feel like I’m going to be ready, whenever the time is,” Smith said. “Whatever Todd [Bowles] says, I’m ready. I’m ready right now. And I think I showed that when I went out there on the field.”
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But in the end, none of it mattered. Smith’s insertion couldn’t salvage the game, nor could it buy him a chance at starting next week. Shortly after the Jets were embarrassed in front of a national audience in Monday night’s 28-3 loss to Arizona, Bowles reiterated his unwavering support for starter Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Likening Smith to a middle reliever in Major League Baseball, Bowles quickly extinguished the smoldering embers of a brewing quarterback controversy.
“If the starting pitcher isn’t doing it this game, this day, you put in a relief pitcher,” Bowles said of Smith. “Fitz will be back next week.”
So why even bother putting in Smith with the game out of hand if he had no chance of earning a shot to start next week?
“The game was 28-3,” said Bowles, whose team fell to 1-5 after a fourth straight loss. “There were eight minutes left in the game. We weren’t doing anything else. I just wanted to give him reps.”
While honoring the late Dennis Byrd with “90” decals on their helmets, the Jets showed no fight and no will to win. Fitzpatrick was inept. Smith fared no better. Their offense, as a whole, was abysmal. And their defense was gashed and gassed from the start, allowing 171 rushing yards while the Jets managed only 33.
On the same night that linebacker David Harris’ streak of consecutive starts ended at 121, the Jets’ hope of salvaging their season went up in smoke, too. Ten penalties. A 58-yard rushing touchdown by the Cardinals’ David Johnson, who gained 111 yards and scored three TDs. And a pulseless offense in the red zone. It was the same lack of execution that has plagued them all season.
“As an offense, we are just not consistent right now,” said Fitzpatrick, who was 16-for-31 for 174 yards with no touchdowns and a red-zone interception. “And the offense goes as the quarterback goes. So I’ve got to play better.”
Bowles said: “It definitely wasn’t Fitz’s fault. I mean, he barely had any time to throw. So anybody we’d have put back there would have had a problem, I think.”
All the while, Smith paced the sideline, watching and waiting. After the game, he confirmed he was “getting antsy” being a spectator, adding: “As a competitor, I always want to be out there.”
After Fitzpatrick threw his 11th interception — and his fourth in the red zone — Smith left the bench, flung his baseball cap and paced some more. Shortly after that, he threw a cup of ice toward the field and, during a conversation with quarterbacks coach Kevin Patullo, pointed to the lopsided score on the big board.
Michael Floyd’s 9-yard TD catch in the fourth quarter — which capped a 14-play, 89-yard Cardinals drive — eventually changed Bowles’ mind and gave Smith an opening.
But his play — 4-for-6, 31 yards, one interception — did little to spark his team.
Though he hasn’t started a game since 2014, Smith stressed that he has the full confidence of the locker room. But he also acknowledged that playing time is the only way he can prove his value.
“You’ve got to go out there and win games, that’s the only way to prove it,” he said. “. . . If you’re not out there, you can’t show much.”