The Jets have no idea which Geno Smith will step on the field Monday night. But they're about to find out.
Players and coaches expressed confidence in the second-year quarterback, who spent the past week preparing for his first start since Oct. 26. But when asked for reasons to support their continued faith in the struggling Smith, their evidence was less than convincing.
"Well, one, I really don't have a choice,'' Calvin Pace said Friday, drawing laughs from his audience. "But two, he's got the tools. He's just got to believe in himself and go out there and execute and do what Marty [Mornhinweg, the offensive coordinator] tells him to do and just make some plays.''
But that's the one thing Smith has failed to do in his eight starts this season. Aside from a solid performance in Week 7 at New England, he's struggled with consistency. The Jets (2-9) went 1-7 with Smith as their starter as he threw seven touchdown passes and committed 12 turnovers, including 10 interceptions.
But with five games left and no shot at the playoffs for a fourth straight year, the Jets' coaching staff believes this is the right time to turn back to Smith. On "Monday Night Football," no less.
The football world will be watching as Smith tries to lead the Jets to victory. And they'll be without defensive star Muhammad Wilkerson (turf toe) and rookie tight end Jace Amaro, who were officially ruled out Saturday.
But while Smith tries to resurrect his career, the Dolphins (6-5) will be aiming to keep their postseason hopes alive. Miami, which hasn't made the playoffs since 2008, is in the crowded mix of teams eyeing the AFC's two wild-card spots.
"As a competitor, you always want to be out there,'' said Smith, who was benched in favor of Michael Vick in Week 8 against the Bills after throwing three interceptions in a span of six snaps.
Vick gave the Jets a spark in his first two starts, but he and the offense were out of sync in the Jets' 38-3 loss to Buffalo last Monday night in Detroit. Vick completed only 7 of 19 passes for 76 yards before he was replaced by Smith (10-for-12, 89 yards) in the third quarter.
Vick's quick hook surprised several teammates, but Mornhinweg said the return to Smith "really has very little to do with Mike's play."
This switch is about giving Smith a fresh start and another chance. He's grateful for the opportunity.
"You never want to feel like you can't be a part of the solution," said Smith, who was benched against the Dolphins (in favor of Matt Simms) exactly one year ago today. "Despite the record or where we're at right now, you want to always be out there with your teammates fighting and hoping to fix things.
"But I knew I'd have a shot and I knew it would come here, but I just didn't know when, and that was the hardest part. I'm just thankful for the opportunity and I look forward to it."
Ryan said teams aren't always going to be in "100 percent" agreement with head coaches. When asked about players in his locker room disagreeing with the organization's choice of Smith over Vick, Ryan said: "There are 53 opinions in there. But the decision wasn't made just to line up a popularity deal. The decision was to go in the best interest of this organization."