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SportsColumnistsBob Glauber

If Geno Smith is well enough to start, he needs to show maturity -- like Ryan Fitzpatrick

New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith looks on

New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith looks on during camp at the Jets' Atlantic Health Training Center on Monday, Aug. 10, 2015 in Florham Park, N.J. Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

It takes a lot for Todd Bowles to panic, and nothing to this point in his eventful run as the Jets' coach has prompted that reaction. Not IK Enemkpali's right cross to Geno Smith's jaw, nor Sheldon Richardson's suspension for substance abuse, nor his team's current predicament of a two-game losing streak and injuries to quarterbacks Ryan Fitzpatrick and Geno Smith.

Nope. Bowles was unruffled after a moribund 34-20 loss to the Raiders in detailing Fitzpatrick's thumb injury and Smith's shoulder problem, and he was composed when he offered an update to reporters on Monday about the uncertainty of either quarterback's availability for Sunday's game against the Jaguars.

He doesn't get rattled, a good personality trait in a business in which unforeseen developments occur regularly. But Bowles did say something that should send shivers down the spine of every Jets fan.

He made a passing reference to having been through a somewhat similar situation in Arizona last year, when the Cardinals went through a succession of quarterback injuries that claimed starter Carson Palmer and backup Drew Stanton. What Bowles neglected to mention was that the injuries ruined Arizona's season.

Arizona was 8-1 when Palmer suffered a season-ending knee injury. The Cardinals lost four of their next seven games, never scoring more than 18 points, but made the playoffs. Journeyman Ryan Lindley was the starter against the Panthers in a first-round game, and he threw for 82 yards and one touchdown with two interceptions in a 27-16 loss.

Although Bowles, who was the Cardinals' defensive coordinator at the time, learned a valuable lesson about perseverance, he also saw firsthand how quarterback injuries can destroy a season.

At least Bowles isn't faced with any season-ending injury scenarios with the Jets. Not yet, anyway. Fitzpatrick has a torn ligament in his left (non-throwing) thumb that eventually will require surgery, but Bowles left open the possibility that Fitzpatrick can play if he can tolerate the pain. Smith suffered a shoulder bruise that did not involve structural damage.

Bowles said his confidence level isn't very high that either quarterback will be able to play this week. That leaves open the possibility that rookie Bryce Petty will start, but Bowles also said the Jets will investigate free-agent and trade possibilities to shore up the position.

Either way, the Jets are in a very dangerous spot as they approach the midway point of the season. Two straight losses put them at 4-3 and in the jumbled mix of wild-card contenders.

The best guess is that Smith, who finished the game after hurting his shoulder when he foolishly didn't go out of bounds after a 29-yard run around right end, will be well enough to play.

He's a more gifted athlete than Fitzpatrick, but the Jets seem to prefer the veteran's leadership over Smith's boom-or-bust style.

Then again, leadership gets you only so far when you're worried about gripping the ball on the snap, so it's wise to at least be prepared for some extended work from Smith.

If that's the case, it will be interesting to see how he responds. The schedule is favorable, as the Jets face four straight opponents with losing records. But if Smith is to make good on his second chance, he'll have to lose the attitude of entitlement he showed his first two seasons, when he was coddled by general manager John Idzik and coach Rex Ryan, neither of whom was willing to bench him for poor play.

Smith had veterans behind him both years -- David Garrard and Mark Sanchez in 2013 and Michael Vick last season. But I didn't sense that Smith was willing to heed the advice the more experienced quarterbacks had to offer. This time it feels different. This time it feels as if there's a connection between Smith and Fitzpatrick.

If Smith takes over for a while, he'd do himself plenty of good by emulating the respect factor Fitzpatrick offers. Smith still is young, with plenty of room to grow, and he has a solid mentor in his older teammate. Now that he might get another chance to be the guy, Smith ought to apply the lessons he's learned from Fitzpatrick.

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