FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - The Jets already are the last team to name a starting quarterback for the regular season, and by the sound of things Thursday, it might be a good while longer before we find out if it's incumbent Mark Sanchez or rookie Geno Smith.
Unusual? Yes, especially in an era in which quarterback competitions have dwindled.
Ill-advised? Not necessarily, especially when we have yet to see Smith play with the first-team offense.
Smith will get that chance Saturday night against the Giants. But even if he does well, there's still a chance that the Jets' coaching staff will need more time before making a decision.
Could that mean that Smith and/or Sanchez will see some time in the preseason finale against the Eagles? It could, according to offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg and quarterbacks coach David Lee, who both raised the possibility of seeing the competition extend into the final week of the preseason.
That fourth preseason game usually is a time when most key starters get the night off and the paying customers get to see the scrubs battle it out in a meaningless game. That's the way it has been under Rex Ryan, who has never had his regular-season starting quarterback take a snap in the final preseason game.
And although it still is possible that Ryan will name a starter sometime between the Giants and Eagles games, at least one Super Bowl-winning quarterback believes there's no harm in extending the competition into next week. Especially if Smith has an uneven performance Saturday night.
"It's gonna sort itself out," former Giant and current CBS analyst Phil Simms said of the Jets' competition. "Let's just wait and see. Can I get a little bit more information before I make that decision? Let's see what Geno does. I think that might have something to do with it."
And if Smith does well against a Giants defense that figures to play most of its starters?
"I think if he plays really well this Saturday night, it's possible , but I would expect to continue," Simms said. "I just think they'll continue the battle. I think it's possible they could go into the fourth preseason game and still let them play. I think that's very possible."
But wait. Isn't it time for the Jets to get it over with and name a starter, if for no other reason than the rest of the team will know who their leader is?
Ryan pooh-poohed that idea. "We want to make sure our evaluation is complete before we make that decision," he said. "We're not putting a timetable on this. When we're ready to make that decision and we feel great about it as an organization, we'll make that decision. Until then, we won't."
Simms has no problem with that line of thinking. "There's no universal rule you have to do it by Week 3 and Week 4," he said. "You can still play your starters in the fourth game. Hey, Green Bay took the Tennessee Titans off their preseason schedule because Tennessee would play all their starters in Week 4. They got tired of getting beat up in the last game because Jeff Fisher liked to have his starters play.
"It wasn't long ago that the fourth preseason game was the real game. I don't know when it changed to the third game."
Simms, who played from 1979-93 and whose son Matt is fighting for the No. 3 job behind Sanchez and Smith, said, "Everybody played their starters in the fourth game when I played. There's plenty of times when I played the whole . Hell, I played the whole game in 1987."
And that was seven months after his Super Bowl MVP performance. Apparently Bill Parcells needed to see more.
No way Smith or Sanchez plays every snap against the Eagles. And there's no guarantee either will play at all, especially if the Jets make their decision shortly after the Giants game.
But the idea here is to get it right, and that means letting Smith catch up to Sanchez in terms of game reps with the first-teamers. Maybe he plays lights-out against the Giants and makes the decision an easy one. And even then, this thing still might drag on a while longer.
Patience, people. Patience.