It is a measure of just how upside- down football has become around here: As the Jets and Giants prepare for Friday's annual preseason matchup, which serves as the dress rehearsal for the regular-season opener, their quarterback situations are diametrically opposed.
The Jets' biggest question mark coming into the preseason was second-year quarterback Geno Smith, but he looked remarkably at ease running the offense through the first half Saturday night against the Bengals.
Eli Manning, meanwhile, may have two Super Bowl MVP awards on his resume, but the Giants' 11-year veteran has looked like a rookie during a rocky preseason under first-year offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo and his West Coast offense.
With another chance to put together some meaningful plays on Friday night, Manning needs to build some confidence. And although we generally subscribe to the rule of thumb that too much shouldn't be read into what happens during the preseason, the Giants should have at least some level of concern about Manning and the offense.
Actually, they do. Tom Coughlin suggested Sunday that his starters might play longer than usual in the Giants' final preseason tuneup against the Patriots next week. And that's saying something, considering it's their fifth preseason game of the summer.
Manning has never been one to panic -- thus his nickname "Easy" -- but there have been warning signs that he needs to start building some chemistry with teammates and coaches. And unless Manning and McAdoo are playing possum -- something that can't be completely ignored, because McAdoo clearly is not showing his playbook just yet -- the growing pains are likely to carry over into at least the start of the regular season.
"I don't worry too much," Manning said after Saturday's game in Indianapolis. "Obviously, you want to go out there and you want to play well. You feel like you should be able to find completions and do things well, but you can't get worried at this point in time."
Fair enough. But the Giants would like to see more evidence that Manning can latch on to McAdoo's way of doing things.
It's a first time for both men, and it's showing. Manning has never operated the West Coast attack, which stresses quick drops and quick throws, and McAdoo has never been a coordinator.
After Saturday's clunker, Manning was in full woulda-shoulda-coulda mode.
"I think we were just a few plays away from being OK," he said. "Hit those plays and those lead to more plays, they lead to a rhythm. We just didn't have many first downs and opportunities to get into a rhythm."
Smith has found his rhythm early on with the Jets. He has had a far better grasp of Marty Mornhinweg's offense in his second go-round, and Smith appears to have the starter's job firmly in his grasp ahead of Michael Vick.
Smith made only two missteps against the Bengals. He had David Nelson open on a post route on the first play but underthrew him, and he mistimed a throw for Nelson on his only interception. Otherwise, he was coolly efficient, going 10-for-13 for 98 yards. He also ran four times for 20 yards and a touchdown.
"I did some good things. I had some good plays," Smith said. "I had some plays where I think I could have done a lot better. Any time you get a situation like that, you want to make that play."
Smith seems more in control of things, knows what he's doing much more and looks like a player ready to take a significant step forward in Year 2.
The only thing missing now is Rex Ryan's official proclamation that Smith is his starter, but Smith doesn't mind. "The intention is to work hard and put myself into the position to be the starting quarterback and to lead this team," he said. "It's up to them whether or not they want me to be the starting quarterback."
What are you waiting for, Rex?