As the chatter among Jets fans about whether Geno Smith should be replaced by Michael Vick gets louder, the biggest Jets fan of them all isn't ready to pull the plug on the second-year quarterback just yet.
But Joe Namath made it clear again Tuesday that he hasn't seen enough from Smith to be convinced he will be the long-term answer.
"He's young," Namath said of Smith at an event in Manhattan to promote Namath's involvement with an initiative to test new treatment for concussions and traumatic brain injuries. "He's learning. The thing that I've said in the past and I said today -- I don't see outstanding passing ability; I don't see outstanding footwork, speed, athleticism. Not outstanding; [just] good. He's got to develop.
"Now, is he going to develop fast enough for this team to come out ahead this year, or is it going to go backward? That remains to be seen. We've seen great physical athletes play that position and not make it."
When asked directly whether he thought Smith deserves to be benched in favor of Vick, Namath, the icon who led the Jets to their only Super Bowl triumph in 1969, scrambled out of the way.
"Well see, this is the thing that they [Rex Ryan, offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg and general manager John Idzik] have access to that I don't," Namath said. "I don't sit with [Smith] every day and know how he's thinking; I don't know exactly the play call and the process that he's supposed to go through. They're the only ones that know the mental process he's going through.
"So . . . I couldn't make that call. And I wouldn't make that call without knowing more."
Namath is helping the Jupiter (Florida) Medical Center raise $10 million for research on whether treatment with a hyperbaric chamber can help people with traumatic brain injuries.
He seemed to support Ryan despite the Jets' 1-3 start. He pointed out several times that Ryan has a winning record (43-41) in five-plus seasons with the Jets.
On the other hand, Broadway Joe seemed less enthusiastic when talking about Idzik, who is in his second year as GM.
"You know, school's out," Namath said when asked his evaluation of Idzik. "It's still not -- we'd like to have seen a better team out there; better personnel out there at some spots: wide receiver and defensive back.
"Injuries kind of get in the way, too, you know. Guys haven't developed the way they've been picked. [Dee] Milliner, from Alabama -- you know I'm pulling for him, being a Jet and Alabama, too -- but meantime, he's been limping around for the last couple of seasons.
"Guys don't work out all the time. I think you've got to find the right men to play the game. And why do some teams stay in the hunt more than others, year in and year out? It's the people that are making decisions."
Namath was asked if he believes Ryan has been given a fair chance to succeed with the roster Idzik has put together. Over the summer, Idzik failed to land a top cornerback in free agency, and the Jets reportedly are more than $20 million under the salary cap.
"I don't think [Ryan's] been sabotaged," Namath said. "I think that they all want to win. Knowing how to go about it is something that may need to be changed. If you're not winning, you change personnel. This is professional sports. Results is what counts.
"I heard about this extra money that they have. I don't know what they're saving it for, myself, looking at the talent they have out there right now, but maybe they just couldn't find other players."