FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - The Jets insist the trade for wide receiver Percy Harvin is nothing more than a way to improve the team, both now and into the future. That part about getting a better read on Geno Smith and whether he can be the future of the franchise now that he has a more legitimate set of offensive weapons? Nah.
"I think it helps our offense," general manager John Idzik said. "Whenever you add a player of Percy's caliber to our offense, it not only helps Geno, it helps everybody around him. That's what we anticipate from Percy."
Jets coach Rex Ryan said he hasn't even thought about that part of the equation.
And Smith himself doesn't want to get into whether Harvin's presence provides a better chance to evaluate his progress.
"Quite honestly, I'm only focused on going out there and trying to win this game this weekend," he said. "Nothing else matters."
But whether they're willing to admit it or not, Harvin really does give Smith and the Jets' decision-makers a better look at whether Geno can be the guy down the road. Or whether the Jets will need to give serious consideration to spending another high draft pick -- or going out on the free agent or trade market -- for a quarterback. With less and less patience when it comes to quarterback development in the NFL, these next nine games are pivotal to Smith's future.
If he can show consistent improvement with an explosive talent like Harvin on one side, the reliable Eric Decker on the other, and Jeremy Kerley, Jace Amaro and Jeff Cumberland as his other targets, then the Jets will get a better fix on whether Smith can be the guy.
Smith is coming off his best game of the season in a 27-25 loss to the Patriots, going 20 of 34 for 226 yards and a touchdown, his first turnover-free game of the season.
But if Smith is going to be the long-term solution here -- and you certainly can't say that about him at this point, based on last year's up-and-down season and this year's sequence of spotty efforts -- then he needs to put together a bunch of games like he played against the Patriots. The mark of a good quarterback is to deal with adversity and come out the other side a more consistent player.
You can't just have one impressive effort after a run of poor showings. You need to have one good showing after the next until you do it enough times where your confidence is born of demonstrated ability. That's how Bill Parcells always described true progress by his players, and that's how Smith is going to prove that he's the right guy for the job moving forward.
Or whether he's not the guy.
Smith has gone through a few too many growing pains this season, including his off-field missteps that included cursing out a fan and missing a team meeting. He's a big reason the Jets are 1-6 and just about out of the playoff race less than halfway through the season, although he's certainly not the only culprit. But if the Jets are to pull out of the worst early-season tailspin of the Ryan era, then Smith will have to be the guy to do it.
Having a receiver with Harvin's playmaking ability makes that job more manageable, and Smith now possesses a deep-threat target who can stretch the field and presumably open things up in both the passing and the running game. If he hits a few long passes with Harvin, the Jets can boast a strategic advantage they rarely have enjoyed on a consistent basis since the Wesley Walker era. Santonio Holmes flashed it a few times, and so did Santana Moss in his mostly disappointing stint here, but the receiving game has been far too much dink-and-dunk and not enough home run balls over the years.
Smith can reinvigorate the long passing game with a legitimate deep threat. If it turns out that Harvin can be a game-breaking player, and Smith can use that speed to his advantage, then the quarterback might demonstrate proof that he can be considered part of the solution over the longer term.
If not, then it's more proof that Geno isn't the answer.