Oregon's Marcus Mariota warms up for the Valero Alamo Bowl...

Oregon's Marcus Mariota warms up for the Valero Alamo Bowl against Texas in San Antonio on Dec. 30, 2013. Credit: AP / Eric Gay

This is not a good time for an NFL team to be without a franchise quarterback. In a league in which the passing game has become more important than ever, being without a capable quarterback makes it virtually impossible to win.

Exhibit A: the Jets.

Geno Smith has failed to build on what looked to be a fairly promising rookie season, prompting coach Rex Ryan to turn to 34-year-old veteran Michael Vick to spark the offense. And though the Jets' myriad difficulties cannot be blamed solely on Smith, his stunning regression leaves the Jets with a major problem.

Regardless of who's coaching and who's in charge of picking the players -- neither Ryan nor general manager John Idzik is assured of returning in 2015 -- the choices at quarterback are not encouraging. And unless the Jets wind up with the first overall draft pick to guarantee they'd be in position to draft Oregon's Marcus Mariota, their problems at the position might not be solved anytime soon.

That's why this is an extremely important time to see if Vick is a viable candidate to remain with the team. He has been ineffective in two relief appearances but now marks his first start with the benefit of a full week of work with the first-team offense.

The Jets thus will get a more realistic assessment of where Vick stands. If he can produce a strong effort against the Chiefs and follow that up with more respectable games, Vick can be a part of the solution. More turnover-prone football, however, and the Jets will not bring him back next season.

Vick is one of only a handful of veteran options for the Jets beyond 2014, so getting a good read on him is vital for planning purposes, regardless of who's running the show as coach and general manager.

Here's a look at which veterans might be available in 2015, and the draft options if the Jets decide to part ways with Smith or add another young quarterback to the mix:


Vick: He signed a one-year, $4-million deal with the Jets but wasn't given a chance to truly compete for the starter's job in training camp because of the team's commitment to Smith. But the last time Vick competed for the No. 1 job, he beat out Nick Foles in Philadelphia last year in training camp. If he still can play, he'd be the Jets' best option as a short-term fix.

Brian Hoyer, Browns: Hoyer is a free agent after the season, and it's uncertain whether the Browns are willing to commit to a significant contract for him or whether they're willing to turn the team over to first-round pick Johnny Manziel. Hoyer, who is from Cleveland and prefers to play for his hometown team, has made it clear he will not re-sign with the Browns if he won't have the starting job.

Kirk Cousins, Washington: Played well initially in relief of the injured Robert Griffin III, but his performance tailed off significantly and led to his benching. Big problem was locking on to receivers, and the Giants intercepted him four times in Washington's Week 4 loss.

Matt Schaub, Raiders: The Raiders actually had Schaub penciled in to start the season, but a strong preseason performance by second-round pick Derek Carr pushed Schaub into a backup role. He's viewed as a "hold the fort" type who can be serviceable as a starter until a better, younger quarterback is available.

Matt Flynn, Packers: The Seahawks and Raiders both viewed Flynn as a potential starter, but he was beaten out by Russell Wilson in Seattle and was a disappointment in Oakland in 2013. But the Packers, with whom he started his career in 2008, value him as a backup to Aaron Rodgers. With the right coaching and a decent supporting cast, he's at least an option.

Christian Ponder, Vikings: See how thin this group of veterans is looking already? Ponder has been a washout in Minnesota and was replaced, first by Matt Cassel and then by Teddy Bridgewater. He's got starting experience, but so does Smith, and neither showed enough to be considered worthy enough to continue by their teams.

Jake Locker, Titans: The Titans are ready to cut ties with the former first-round pick. He displayed some good ability as a runner but was erratic at best as a passer.

Matt Simms, Jets: The Jets have not looked to Simms as the answer at quarterback, but he may get his shot if Vick falters and the team doesn't go back to Smith. Simms was elevated from the practice squad to the regular roster on Saturday because of Smith's bruised shoulder.

Other names on the list -- and we're just putting them here, just so you see how thin it truly is: Matt Hasselbeck (too old to start), Colts. Jimmy Clausen (not good enough), Bears. Tarvaris Jackson (career backup, no better than Smith), Seahawks.


Marcus Mariota, Oregon: The most complete quarterback from next year's class, with almost no weaknesses. He entered Saturday night's game against Stanford with 24 touchdown passes and only one interception.

Jameis Winston, Florida State: One of the best college quarterbacks ever, the former Heisman Trophy winner has been exceptional this year. He's likely to come into the draft early but has a ton of question marks related to off-field issues, including his involvement in an alleged sexual assault in 2012. Given the current climate in the NFL, Winston's draft-day stock could be greatly impacted by his off-field situation.

Brett Hundley, UCLA: Not a first-round talent but has good arm strength and good size at 6-3, 227. Not viewed as a Day 1 starter in his NFL rookie season.

Dak Prescott, Mississippi State: Had the Bulldogs off to a 7-0 start with 15 touchdown passes and five interceptions heading into Saturday night's game against Arkansas.

Everett Golson, Notre Dame: Considered undersized at just over 6 feet, but he's an instinctive player who is a threat to run. Looked at somewhat similarly to Russell Wilson.

Cody Kessler, USC: Having a spectacular individual season with 20 touchdown passes and two interceptions heading into Saturday night's game against Washington State. Not big at 6-1, but a high-energy leader with a good arm.


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