Geno Smith was set up to fail from the moment he stepped on the field Sunday afternoon.
Handcuffed by an offense designed to hide him, Smith was nothing more than a caretaker, a stand-in for some nebulous quarterback-of-the-future that looms like a specter threatening to eventually replace him.
It’s difficult to draw another conclusion from Marty Mornhinweg’s ultra-conservative scheme. The Jets appear to have moved on from thinking Smith can positively affect games, now believing their best shot to win lies in removing their quarterback from the equation entirely.
How else do you explain an offense that features Josh Cribbs at quarterback and responsible for 10 percent of the Jets completions?
The Jets’ insistence on deploying a woefully-outdated offensive system continues to escape logic. Is this Rex Ryan pounding this down the throat of his coaching staff since the days of Schottenheimer? While the majority of the NFL has moved away from the easy-to-plan-for and easy-to-stop run alternative, the Jets actually sought out an offensive coordinator who would utilize it as part of his week-to-week game plan.
News flash: It’s not 2008 anymore.
Of course, Smith put the Jets in this position with poor decision making and his NFL-leading 18 interceptions. He’s played so poorly since his dazzling performance in Atlanta six weeks ago that calls for backup Matt Simms have gone from back-room whispers to back-page headlines.
If Smith starts Sunday – and chances are good he’ll at least get a chance to figure things out at home – the watch for boo-birds will be officially on. Throw an early interception or two against the rival Dolphins and Geno will have something in common with Mark Sanchez. He’ll get chided off the field before the final horn sounds just as No. 6 did last fall.
But simply inserting Simms or David Garrard at quarterback will not help matters. Not with a suspect offensive line and pop-gun supporting cast. And certainly not with a defense that would be elite save an Achilles' heel when it comes to the deep pass.
Victims of their own success, the Jets are stuck somewhere between a rebuild and a playoff run. In August, a 5-6 record by Week 13 would’ve been hailed a victory by pundits nationally – and it is. But with dreams of January football dotting Jets fans’ Christmas lists, simply “improving” week to week is not enough anymore.
The Jets must find a way to halt their first losing streak and field an offense that will do more than simply take up space and kill clock on Sunday afternoons.
More importantly, they must find a way to rebuild the confidence that once oozed out of Smith. Gone is the quarterback who was chided for being cocky and arrogant. In his place is a man seemingly unable to routinely challenge the defense for anything more than a dump-off or short passing play.
The Jets have a choice. Give Geno the chance to affect the outcome or bench him for someone who will.
Because the quarterback who took the field in Baltimore was nothing more than a placeholder, running an offensive scheme so basic it might as well have been color-coded.
And we all know how that worked out before.
Corey works for NBCSports.com as an editor and can be reached at @cgriffin415 on Twitter.