Brandon Marshall remains “hopeful” that Ryan Fitzpatrick will soon walk through the doors at 1 Jets Drive. But even if the veteran quarterback doesn’t, Marshall believes the organization will be in good hands.
No, not with Christian Hackenberg, but rather Geno Smith.
The Jets’ second-round selection of Hackenberg in last month’s NFL draft raised eyebrows and even more questions about their quarterback depth chart. But Marshall insisted he wasn’t at all concerned about having three backups and no set starting quarterback on the roster.
“No, not at all. Not at all. Even if Fitz didn’t come back, Geno Smith is more than ready,” the Jets’ star receiver told Newsday over the phone while en route to a team-bonding activity Tuesday afternoon.
“What people don’t understand about Geno is, he’s super-competitive and he takes things personal in a good way,” Marshall said. “In the past, I noticed there were some things he may not have channeled the right way, but now he’s really using it as fuel to push him to be better in areas that he’s already good at.
“He’s a professional now. I don’t know if that’s always been the case. So there’s no doubt in my mind that when this kid gets a shot, he’ll be ready and he’ll take advantage of it.”
The Jets have stated their preference is to reunite with free agent Fitzpatrick, though they have yet to reach an agreement on a new contract. He had a career resurgence at age 33, throwing a franchise-record 31 touchdowns and 3,905 yards last season to lead the Jets (10-6) within one win of a playoff berth.
The selection of Hackenberg was a clear indication that the front office isn’t 100 percent certain that Smith and Bryce Petty are long-term options. But Marshall is confident Smith will again be a starter in the NFL. “Geno is going to be successful,” he said, adding that the locker room will rally behind Smith should Fitzpatrick not re-sign. “Everyone plays their part. It’s just a do-your-job type of approach. We’re not asking Geno or Hack or Bryce to be Joe Montana. We’re asking them to just do your job. And that’s the thing I love about this team — everyone has that approach and everyone holds each other accountable.”
Smith went 11-18 as the Jets’ starter before his jaw was broken by then-teammate IK Enemkpali during a locker-room altercation on Aug. 11. While Smith healed, Fitzpatrick took the reins of the offense and never let go.
In recent weeks, general manager Mike Maccagnan has referenced Smith’s improved maturity. And on Tuesday, so did Marshall. “Geno, he’s grown so much since the first conversations we had last offseason when we were roommates. Just seeing him really lead the way right now, it’s really impressive. I’m proud of him.
“To be successful at the quarterback position, you have to be more than an athlete. You have to be a leader. You have to be a manager, you have to be a counselor. You have to be balanced. You have to be savvy. So there are so many things that go into a quarterback being successful and playing at a high level . . . So when you look at guys like Geno Smith, sometimes it may take them a little longer to really learn everything and understand all aspects of the game and the business.”
Though he fully supports Smith’s progress, Marshall remains firmly ensconced in the “Re-sign Fitz” camp. In fact, the six-time Pro Bowl wideout said he spoke to his former quarterback “probably an hour” before he and some current Jets made their way into the woods for their afternoon outing. The pair actually talk “every other day or every three days,” Marshall added.
However, the receiver could offer no insight into when a deal could get done between Fitzpatrick and the Jets.
“I’m not sure, man. This is one of those situations where it’s going to take more time than everyone thought,” he said. “I feel hopeful. It’s good that there’s not too many people beating down his door, so that gives us more time to work it out.”
Asked if he still views Fitzpatrick as his starting quarterback, Marshall laughed.
“He’s one of our quarterbacks,” he joked. “Hey, we may make him earn it when he gets back.”