FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — In the end, Todd Bowles felt he had no choice. Mounting losses, a stagnant offense and too many turnovers at his most precious position had forced his hand.
So on Tuesday, he called each quarterback into his office and broke the news: Ryan Fitzpatrick’s reign with the Jets’ offense is over. Now, it’s Geno Smith’s turn.
With his team at 1-5 and spiraling toward irrelevancy after four straight losses, Bowles said Wednesday that it was “time for a change.” He insisted: “This was strictly my call.’’
Bowles made the decision less than 24 hours after he benched Fitzpatrick in a Monday night loss at Arizona — a 28-3 embarrassment in which Smith ran the offense for the final eight minutes.
So does the former backup give the sputtering Jets the best chance to win, or did they just need a spark?
“It’s a little bit of both,” Bowles said. “We’ve been stagnant on offense. And we have some things in place where we think another quarterback will probably, right now, be beneficial . . . When you have guys of equal talent and one of them isn’t playing well, you try to turn to the other one, and that’s what we did.”
Bowles said the choice came down to “Geno or Fitz” because third-stringer Bryce Petty has practiced for only a week after being sidelined for a month with a shoulder injury and rookie Christian Hackenberg is “not ready.”
Fitzpatrick will be the No. 2 going forward.
“Each of them do different things well,” Bowles said of Fitzpatrick and Smith, “but going in, Geno had a shot at it last year and Fitz took it over and played well. Fitz had a shot at it this year and Geno took it over.”
Smith hasn’t started a game since Dec. 28, 2014, when he posted a perfect quarterback rating (158.3) in a 37-24 Week 17 win at Miami. But a lot has happened since then. He lost the starting the job last summer when his jaw was broken in a locker room altercation with then-teammate IK Enemkpali in training camp. Fitzpatrick was elevated to No. 1 and the team never looked back as he helped guide it to a 10-6 record. But now it’s Smith’s turn to shine.
“I think it’s an opportunity for all of us to go out there and try to get a win,” said Smith, who completed 4 of 6 for 31 yards with an interception Monday night. “We’re on a four-game losing streak. No one likes it. It’s a bitter taste in our mouths. We just have to . . . play hard with a reckless abandonment and do whatever we have to do to get this victory.”
Fitzpatrick, who turns 34 next month, acknowledged his shortcomings but said: “I’ve got to respect his decision. But I don’t have to like it.”
“The way that we played on offense the last four weeks, something had to change,” added the 12-year veteran, who regressed after throwing a franchise-record 31 touchdowns last season. “So I guess I was the change.”
But even as Bowles was announcing his demotion, he said, “It’s still not Fitz’s fault. Fitz is not falling on the sword for anything. I take responsibility, the coaches take responsibility, the offensive line and the receivers take the responsibility. But I felt that it was time for a change. We got up there in the turnover category. We hadn’t been putting any points up and we’re trying to get a spark somewhere.”
Geno Smith’s career completion percentage of 57.9 percent is the worst mark among 41 quarterbacks with at least 500 passing attempts since 2013. The fourth-year QB’s career stats:
QB Rate 71.9