Just like that, Geno Smith’s season is over. Most likely, so is his Jets career.
Less than 24 hours after Smith’s first start since 2014, an MRI revealed that the 26-year-old quarterback tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee while trying to elude a second-quarter sack in Sunday’s 24-16 win over the Ravens.
Smith, who will become a free agent after this season, is scheduled for a second opinion Tuesday with noted orthopedic surgeon James Andrews. But the result is expected to be the same: His season is over. The next step is determining the significance of the tear and his recovery timetable for next season.
“You hear that, it’s tough luck for the kid,” coach Todd Bowles said Monday on a conference call before announcing that the Jets (2-5) have named their old starter, Ryan Fitzpatrick, their new one.
After Fitzpatrick replaced Smith against the Ravens, the 12-year veteran used a portion of his postgame news conference to call out Bowles, general manager Mike Maccagnan and owner Woody Johnson for not believing in him and benching him last week. “I’ve probably played better as an underdog [ticked] off,” Fitzpatrick said Sunday.
A day later, Bowles said it’s a “show-me game” and didn’t seem bothered by Fitzpatrick’s remarks. “If [playing ticked] off is going to stop the turnovers,’’ he said, “I’m more than happy to have him [ticked] off the whole time.”
The Jets also have Bryce Petty and rookie Christian Hackenberg, who have been inactive for games. Bowles said he is comfortable with Petty playing but noted that the second-year quarterback needs more than only two weeks of practice reps after being sidelined for a month with a shoulder injury.
“Fitz is our best option to go in and win this week [in Cleveland],” said Bowles, who will name his No. 2 quarterback later this week.
It was a foregone conclusion that Smith, who went 11-18 with 34 interceptions and 41 turnovers in his first two seasons, wouldn’t be on the Jets’ roster next season. But now his NFL livelihood could be in jeopardy after major knee surgery.
His injury curtailed what could have been a chance to prove to the Jets — and the other 31 teams — that he’s still capable of being a starter. The torn knee ligament also capped an unthinkable stretch of misfortune for the 2013 second-round pick, who lost his starting job on Aug. 11, 2015, after his jaw was broken in a locker- room altercation with then-teammate IK Enemkpali.
“As an athlete, it’s part of the game and you’ve got to understand people get hurt,’’ Bowles said. “But he caught a bad break two years in a row. I’m sure he’ll bounce back from it, but it’s a tough part of the business.”
In the 14 months since the infamous punch, Smith lost his job to Fitzpatrick but was the presumptive starter in the 2016 offseason during Fitzpatrick’s seven-month contract standoff with the Jets. When Fitzpatrick signed a one-year, $12-million deal at the start of training camp, Smith was demoted.
With the Jets mired in a four-game losing streak, Bowles made the decision last Tuesday to play Smith against the Ravens, marking his first start since Dec. 28, 2014. His outing, however, was cut short midway through the second quarter.
“It’s terrible,” receiver Quincy Enunwa said. “For a guy to get his opportunity, to only get a half of a game to play. I feel bad for him.”
Brandon Marshall agreed. “It [stinks] for Geno and it [stinks] for our team,’’ he said. “This year has been filled with adversity, and that’s one of the things that we’re learning is how to respond to it. So this is another lesson right here for us.”