Jets head coach Todd Bowles pulled Ryan Fitzpatrick in the fourth quarter of the team’s 28-3 loss to the Cardinals on Monday, but he gave the veteran quarterback a vote of confidence after the game.
“Fitz will be back next week … It definitely wasn’t Fitz’s fault. He barely had any time to throw,” said Bowles, whose team dropped to 1-5 (via NFL.com).
Bowles was far less definitive on Wednesday, indicating that he and his staff will decide on a starting signal-caller for Week 7 at a Tuesday night meeting, per Bart Hubbuch of the New York Post.
That could open the door for backup Geno Smith to grab the reins from Fitzpatrick against the Ravens this Sunday. The 2013 second-round pick has been ineffective throughout his NFL career, though, and that continued Monday. After taking over late in the game, Smith completed 4 of 6 passes for 31 yards and an interception. In 32 games (29 starts), the ex-West Virginia star has tossed 36 picks against 27 touchdowns.
Despite his poor track record, Smith told ESPN’s Lisa Salters before the Jets’ loss to the Cardinals that he was “getting antsy” to play.
Bowles addressed that Tuesday, saying that he doesn’t “have any thoughts on backup players saying anything. They’re backups for a reason. but Bowles liked what he saw Monday. If they get a chance to play, they’d better prove themselves to be worthy of playing regardless of who they are.”
That’s a strong statement, as Rich Cimini of ESPN.com notes, but Bowles did credit Smith for his brief appearance in relief of Fitzpatrick.
“(Smith) did show some promise when he was in there. He understood the game plan. He did good for the drive he was in there (for),” Bowles stated Tuesday (via Jeremy Bergman of NFL.com).
Smith is in a contract year, so another chance to start for the 26-year-old would likely represent make-or-break time for his tenure with the Jets. Otherwise, the team also has two more recent draft picks – 2015 fourth-rounder Bryce Petty and rookie second-rounder Christian Hackenberg – on hand. Bowles revealed Tuesday that going to either of them sometime this season is “definitely possible.”
Having to use any of their reserve signal-callers obviously isn’t what the playoff-hopeful Jets had in mind entering the season. Thanks in part to a career year from Fitzpatrick, Gang Green went 10-6 and narrowly missed out on a wild-card berth last season. After a months-long offseason tug of war over a contract with Fitzpatrick, then a free agent, the Jets brought the journeyman back on a one-year deal worth a fully guaranteed $12MM in July. The 34-year-old now sits toward the bottom of the league in most notable passing categories, including last-place rankings in interceptions (11) and QB rating (63.4).
Although Fitzpatrick’s Jets career is on track to end after the season, he’ll still count $5MM against their salary cap in 2017.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.