FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - The cameras descended on Michael Vick the moment he walked into the Jets locker room.
Within seconds, the backup quarterback was surrounded by a sea of microphones and tape recorders as he delivered sage advice and unwavering support for Geno Smith.
Then, without warning, Smith emerged.
The stampede was fast and furious, as cameramen and scribes raced across the room to position themselves in front of the Jets starting quarterback. And all Vick could do was smile.
"You know who the most important guy around here is now! It's certainly not me," he joked to the handful of writers still gathered around him.
While the calls for a quarterback change gain momentum outside of One Jets Drive, those inside remain unfazed by public opinion. Rex Ryan reiterated that Smith is the leader of their offense, and he even took his public support a step further Wednesday.
"I feel like that this guy will start the rest of the games," Ryan said.
It's as close as Ryan has ever come to throwing his full weight behind Smith. But, within seconds, he undermined the sentiment with a well-rehearsed caveat.
"But again, things happen," Ryan said, "And we'll see."
The tattoo on the coach's right arm -- the one of a woman resembling his wife wearing a Mark Sanchez No. 6 jersey -- is proof that "things happen" in the NFL. In 2011, Ryan famously declared that Sanchez would be "our quarterback for as long as I am here. . . . We know we got the right guy," he said at the time.
Three years later, Sanchez is a distant memory in Florham Park. And Ryan refuses to let his words be used against him again.
"If I say he's our starting quarterback for the rest of the season and something happens, than I'd rather not get it thrown in my face," he said of Smith.
As tepid as Ryan's vote of confidence may seem, Smith said he isn't at all worried about losing his starting job -- even with an experienced and electrifying backup like Vick waiting in the wings.
"Do I feel like I'm on the hot seat? No, not at all," Smith said, just two days after throwing two interceptions -- including a pick 6 on the second play from scrimmage -- in a 27-19 loss to the Bears on Monday night.
Ryan continued to tap dance when he was asked if he could "envision a scenario" where Vick relieves Smith in a game.
"I don't want to deal with that," he said. "You know, I don't -- I think it's negative when you do it. But am I confident in Mike coming into a game? I absolutely would be. But again, I don't like the what-if scenarios. . . . I really don't want to think about it. And in all seriousness, I don't like doing that."
Vick was once in Smith's position, trying to find ways to ignore the calls for his own replacement. That's why the 34-year-old refuses to "feed into" all the chatter about benching Smith.
"What people have got to understand is you've got to allow a young guy to work through the tough times," Vick said. " . . . And if this plays out the way it's supposed to, and I think it will, he may go through it sometime down the road. So, you've just got to bear with the young guy, give him a chance and work with him and believe in him."
Vick recalled being mentally strong enough to ignore the negative talk. "Sometimes, the fans are calling for a guy and it's unnecessary," he said. "But we understand that fans want to win. We understand that everybody wants to win."
The sense of urgency is real now for the Jets (1-2), who have lost two straight and are in the midst of a gauntlet of talented teams. The Lions (2-1) are their next test.
But Vick is confident Smith will turn things around. If he does, however, that means the backup quarterback rarely will be on the field. And, in some respects, Vick's OK with that.
"I won't say that's what I want. But I want success for Geno," he said. "I want Geno to fulfill everything that he wants to fulfill in this game and at the quarterback position -- and primarily for this team. But my chance will come again."