Thursday, March 27, 2014

Vick makes things tricky for Jets' Ryan

By John McMullen

PHILADELPHIA - On the surface, Michael Vick moving to the New York Jets seems like a very good fit.

The Jets needed a veteran presence to push Geno Smith after his uneven rookie season which neither proved the former West Virginia star was the long-term answer in Florham Park nor conclusively affirmed he wasn't. Meanwhile, there was just too much baggage to put Mark Sanchez back in the conversation even if the former Rex Ryan man crush was willing to accept the role of a caddy.

Vick, on the other hand, has his best professional season under current Jets offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg when both were in Philadelphia and completed a major transformation with the Eagles, going from pariah to locker room leader in five short years.

"First off, you're getting a guy that is obviously a proven winner, a guy that is a dynamic player and for us, it's going to give us a guy that's going to provide great competition," Ryan said when talking about the signing of Vick at the NFL meetings earlier this week. "I think it's going to be a great thing for Geno and the end result will be good for the football team."

When you shape the argument like that, it seems like Jets general manager John Idzik hit a home run or at the very least doubled into the gap by luring Vick up the Jersey Turnpike.

"I'm real excited for him," Vick's former head coach, Philadelphia's Chip Kelly, said Wednesday. "I'm happy for him. He wanted to go somewhere where he felt like he had an opportunity.

"I know he's going to go out and compete. I think the familiarity with the system will help him. I don't think he wanted to go learn another system. That was part of what he was also thinking when he went through his decision. I think it's a great fit. I know he's got a great relationship with Marty."

There are issues, however.

Vick is simply a little too good to fit snugly into a backup role behind a flawed young QB like Smith, but he also will be turning 34 in June, signed just a one-year deal and has a significant injury history, meaning Gotham's other football team can't exactly move forward with Vick as a constant at the game's most important position.

"I still think he's got a lot of football left in him," Kelly continued. "He's got tremendous arm skill. I don't know too many guys in the league that have the arm that Mike does. There's still days in practice in December when he rips a couple and you're just like, 'Whoah.' He can throw the football. He still has the ability."

That ability is the reason a day earlier Vick said he believed he's still a "legitimate starting quarterback in this league," while Ryan has already admitted there is a chance Vick could be the Week 1 starter for the Jets.

"I think it's going to be really interesting to watch that competition unfold," Ryan said. "Geno Smith's going to be hard to beat out. I've said that for a long time and that's how I feel about it, but it is going to be great competition."

The "chance" Rex was talking about will turn into reality, however, if the team is truly intent on staging an open competition between Smith and Vick, something which seems likely. After all, despite his high-profile "extension," Ryan has little margin for error if he wants to remain a head coach in New York.

"You guys know me. I think I put my expectations and everything else have never changed, I want to win and I expect to win," Ryan said. "It's time to deliver. It's time to deliver for this community, for New York, for this entire area and we've got to step up and deliver. I expect a lot out of this football team. We want to have sustainable success. There isn't a one-shot deal. Our plan is to have sustainable success for the present and the future."

Unfortunately for Ryan, Vick gives him the best chance to succeed in a one- shot situation while Geno remains the better long-range solution.

"We have two guys that do a tremendous job and maybe three guys (including Matt Simms)," Ryan said. "They do a great job and you're sitting back going, in an ideal situation, well, they both earned the job. That's the best way to do it and then you can't go wrong."

The one football adage that has proven to be as certain as death and taxes, though, is the thought that if you think you have two QBs, you really don't have any.

So where are Rex and the Jets going?

Even at this stage of his career, Vick is arguably, at least at times, among the top 20 quarterbacks in the world and you can't really say that about Smith, at least not yet.

Last year, Vick clearly outplayed Nick Foles (the same Nick Foles who ended up leading the NFL with a 119.0 passer rating) in training camp and in the preseason before losing the gig due to a combination of injury and occasional ineffectiveness, along with Foles' stellar play.

Of course, as good as Vick can look at times, he's played a full 16-game season just once in his career and his notorious fumbling issues almost always become an issue in the guts of a season, making it likely that the Jets will have to turn back to Smith at some point in the 2014 season.

And that's where Ryan and the Jets are walking a tricky tightrope.

When they do give the ball back to Smith, they may find out that they have lost their promising, second-year signal caller.

"I definitely don't see that," Ryan said when asked if Vick could have a negative affect on Smith's development. "(Vick's) experience in the system, the fact that he's played that position for a long time I think will help. They're going to push each other."

Or perhaps push Ryan right out of New York.
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