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New Jets coach Todd Bowles not committing to turnover-prone Geno Smith

Todd Bowles is shown during a press conference

Todd Bowles is shown during a press conference where he was introduced as the New York Jets new head coach at the Jets Practice Facility in Florham Park, NJ on Jan. 21, 2015. Credit: Andrew Theodorakis

INDIANAPOLIS - When it comes to the Jets' quarterback position, every possible scenario is in play heading into the draft.

The more general manager Mike Maccagnan and coach Todd Bowles talk about Geno Smith, the more it becomes clear that they're not sold on him being the face of their franchise. Instead, the new regime is keeping its options open at quarterback -- via free agency and the draft.

The Jets met with free-agent quarterback Josh McCown on Wednesday, according to Maccagnan. The GM also said the team plans to interview Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota -- the top two quarterback prospects -- during this week's NFL Combine.

When given the opportunity to show confidence in Smith, the Jets again issued a tepid endorsement. Bowles highlighted the fact that Smith is "a good athlete" who can "make all the throws," but he added: "Without seeing the intangibles and not being able to talk to him personally, you're not allowed to see what he knows and where his strengths are and how those things are. So as we go forward, when we get him in there, we've got to sit him down and see what he can and can't do, what he's good at, what he's not good at, what kind of intangibles he has going forward."

Bowles then pointed out Smith's most glaring weakness: turnovers.

"You can't win games turning the ball over," Bowles said. "I think any quarterback in the league going forward has got to be able to protect the football. You can't win without protecting the football. Every quarterback has to know that, Geno included."

Asked directly if Smith will be the Jets' starting quarterback heading into training camp, Bowles said: "Without seeing him and without sitting down and talking to him and going through the process, it wouldn't be fair to him or us."

Quarterback may be the Jets' biggest area of need, but it's not their only focus. The Jets are scheduled to talk to Percy Harvin, David Harris and Muhammad Wilkerson's agents while in Indianapolis.

Asked about the possibility of Wilkerson getting a long-term deal, Maccagnan said it's "something that's on our list of things to do." As for Harris, Bowles said: "He's a good player for us. Hopefully, we can get him back."

Neither would give a definitive answer on Harvin's status, though. The team has until March 19 to decide whether the versatile receiver should remain on the roster. If he does, the Jets must surrender their fourth-round pick to the Seahawks, as per the terms of their trade agreement. If Harvin is released, the Jets would have to forfeit a sixth-round choice.

The Jets have only six draft picks this year, but they'll have more than $40 million in available salary-cap space. That's good news considering that they have several holes, particularly at cornerback, wide receiver and edge rusher.

Asked which major areas he would like to address this offseason, Bowles listed several. "We're going to have accountability first and foremost when we get the guys in," he said. "Obviously, we want to get better at the corner. We're going to solidify and have less turnovers at the quarterback position. We want to get bigger plays down the field. We want to be tougher up front on both sides of the ball. Going in, that's what we're going to try to do."

Some other tidbits from Wednesday's media availability:

The Jets aren't sure if cornerback Dee Milliner, who suffered a season-ending torn Achilles in October, will be healthy by spring workouts. "You get weekly medical updates about how he's doing and how he's coming along. But we'll evaluate that more as we go. It's a little too early to say whether he'd be ready for the spring or not," Bowles said. "If he's healthy and ready to go, we'll see if he's one of the best players. If not, we'll have to do it elsewhere."

What's the biggest challenge in taking over a team that went 4-12 last season? "Belief," Bowles said. "We've got to get them to play together. We've got to have accountability. We've got to jell as a team. They've got to be allowed to let the coaches coach them and we've got to understand what our players can and can't do. The faster we can get that done, hopefully the faster we can turn this thing around."

Unlike former Jets coach Rex Ryan, Bowles isn't fixated on beating the Patriots. Asked what the rivalry means to him now, he replied: "I don't think it means anything to us right now. Right now, we're trying to become the New York Jets and we're trying to become a winning ballclub. We're going to concentrate on us . . . Just beating the Patriots is not going to cut it if you lose to everybody else."

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