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SportsColumnistsNeil Best

If healthy, Geno Smith should remain starter

Geno Smith of the New York Jets looks

Geno Smith of the New York Jets looks on from the sidelines during the third quarter against the Baltimore Ravens at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, Oct. 23, 2016 in East Rutherford, N.J. Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

As bad teams with bad quarterback situations go, give the Jets credit: At least they make the weekly melodrama entertaining.

On Sunday, the star of the show was former/present/maybe future starter Ryan Fitzpatrick, who guided the team to its first victory in more than a month, then bared his soul in a fascinating, candid news conference.

Fascinating and candid, but alas, also tone deaf.

Fitz was discussing an emotional week in which he got a vote of confidence Monday night, got benched Wednesday, then beat the Ravens, 24-16, on Sunday, after which he took aim at the team’s powers that be.

“The biggest thing in this game in order to last is to have belief in yourself,’’ he said, “because when the owner stops believing in you and the GM stops believing in you and the coaches stop believing in you, sometimes all you have is yourself.”

So . . . just to follow up, was he saying on live TV that Woody Johnson, Mike Mac cagnan and Todd Bowles had stopped believing in him? “Yeah, when you get put on the bench, I think that’s the reason why.”

There was more where that came from, but first as a point of order, Fitzpatrick was one of the central culprits in a 1-5 start, and he acknowledged as much Wednesday.

Then Sunday, he opened a window into the wounded pride of a guy who rode a wave of success in 2015 and wiped out during the first six games of this season. Sad, but true.

In the bigger picture of the franchise’s state, none of this real ly matters. Fitzpatrick and Geno Smith are unlikely to be part of the solution in 2017 and beyond.

Give us a look at Bryce Petty soon, please, and eventually Christian Hackenberg, too. But someone has to start in Cleveland, and it says here that if Smith’s wounded right knee is sound, he should be back under center.

Before leaving in the second quarter when he was injured on a sack, Smith played decently, even if his biggest play was more a function of Quincy Enunwa running 62 yards after a catch than anything the quarterback did.

And Fitzpatrick played decently after coming on in relief, going 4-for-4 on his first drive, which ended with a touchdown. But after that? Meh.

Nothing fundamentally has changed since Bowles made the move from Fitz to Smith, so why move back if Smith is healthy?

But back to the original point: The Fitzpatrick-or-Smith debate is a temporary sideshow that means a lot to the men involved and perhaps to their teammates, but not so much to the rest of us.

Just wake us up the next time a potential franchise quarterback comes along. In the meantime . . . back to Fitz’s comments:

How does he counter the lack of faith he perceives from his bosses?

“It’s not easy, but I think my teammates believing in me is a big thing,” he said. “Their opinion of me, that’s kind of what drives me and what matters. I know I still have that belief in the huddle, so that’s important to me.

“I’m human. It’s not the easiest thing in the world to deal with. It’s something that I have dealt with and again. Just relying on my support system and belief in myself is the biggest thing.”

The potential good news if Fitzpatrick has to play is that he said he flourishes when angry. “I probably play better as an underdog, [ticked] off,” he said. “So going forward, yeah, I’m [ticked] off.”

In the meantime, he has to deal with the awkwardness of running into certain people in the hallways in Florham Park.

“Going back to me being human and not just being a robot, yeah, there’s strong emotions there for me,” he said, later adding, “People giving up on you and then having to see them every day, that’s not necessarily the easiest thing in the world, but it’s something you try to deal with as maturely as you can and then move on.”

Bowles and Smith did not have much to say about who will or should start next, pending more information about Smith’s health.

What did Fitzpatrick think? “I think,” he said, “I should start every week.”


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