The nuanced answers from Rex Ryan, Michael Vick and Geno Smith suggest there's a good chance the Jets will make a change at quarterback next week against the Chiefs. But at 1-7 after Smith's latest benching in Sunday's 43-23 home loss to the Bills, the season is so far gone that it is taking on the look of the . . . brace yourselves . . . Rich Kotite era of the mid-1990s.
That's a very big, very scary thought as the Jets careen through a season gone wrong, but you can't ignore what you're seeing: In terms of record, this is the worst Jets team since Eric Mangini's second year, 2007, when they started 1-8.
Kotite's 1996 team started off 0-8 on the way to a 1-15 record. Jets fans thought the 4-28 Kotite era was permanently behind them, but that nightmare appears to be recurring, based on what has happened in this shockingly bad season.
The Kotite debacle led to the franchise-saving arrival of Bill Parcells, who reached the AFC Championship Game in his second season. And unless this year's Jets start winning a bunch of games in a row, there could be another clean sweep.
Ryan's job is on the line. Smith doesn't appear to be the permanent answer at quarterback. Nor does Vick, who is playing on a one-year contract and likely will be gone after the season. And owner Woody Johnson now has to ask himself whether second-year general manager John Idzik is the right man for the job.
Idzik is scheduled to give a midseason state-of-the-team address Monday at the Jets' training facility, and he'll have to answer some hard questions about the calamity that is unfolding before his eyes. He got off to a strong start last year, trading disgruntled cornerback Darrelle Revis for a first-round pick and the eventual selection of Sheldon Richardson, who wound up the NFL's Defensive Rookie of the Year. And Smith, a second-round pick, appeared to be making decent progress in an up-and-down rookie year, especially in the final month of an 8-8 season.
But Smith's consistency continues to be an issue, and his disturbing up-one-week-and-down-the-next pattern continues. In a 27-25 Week 7 loss to the Patriots, he competed as well as he has all season. But on Sunday, Smith bombed in spectacular fashion.
He threw three interceptions in less than 11 minutes and was yanked in favor of Vick, who sparked the offense and got the Jets to within 24-17 at halftime. But Vick also wound up committing three turnovers.
Smith had a defeated look on his face after the game and spoke in hushed tones during his news conference. He even acknowledged the possibility of taking a seat next week. "If it does happen, I have to use it to my best interest," he said. "Obviously, it's never an ideal situation for any quarterback, but I have to learn from it. I have to take those mental reps and find a way to get better from it."
Vick, who hasn't started since midway through last season with the Eagles, said he would "love to start. I don't mind that at all."
The defense, which hung tough early Sunday, eventually wilted, leaving defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson to lament after the game that the Jets are playing for pride, the phrase uttered only by teams with no hope.
Idzik can't escape the blame, either. He didn't adequately address the cornerback situation in the offseason, a problem compounded by injuries to Dee Milliner and Dexter McDougle and Dmitri Patterson's decision to go AWOL in the preseason. His daring move to trade for Percy Harvin is hardly a panacea.
With Smith looking as though he is not the long-term answer, the Jets will need to draft another quarterback -- and it looks as if they'll have one of the top picks to make that choice. But whether Idzik will be making that decision remains to be seen. After all this, no one is safe.