Rex Ryan and Marty Mornhinweg have both suggested that Michael Vick could be used as a “change of pace” quarterback this season, adding Vick’s name to a long list of skill players that have been featured in wildcat-type packages throughout Rex Ryan’s tenure. The Jets have all but indicated that Geno Smith is the starting quarterback during the regular season, but nonetheless the Jets seem reluctant to settle for having a player with Vick’s athleticism sitting on the bench.
The Jets under Rex Ryan have been one of the few teams that have stuck with the Wildcat since it began to wane in popularity and success in 2011, and it looks as if it will make a return once again this season. While it is understandable to want to get a player of Vick’s ability on the field in some fashion, the Jets will be doing themselves no favors in terms of giving the media fuel for a quarterback controversy and there is just as much reason to think it could be a hindrance to Geno Smith’s development. Chief among those detractors is a former player who sees the situation as all-too familiar, former Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb.
“The Jets tried this whole garbage with Tim Tebow and Mark Sanchez and it got them nowhere,” McNabb told the New York Daily News. “In the situation now, I think it takes away from what Geno Smith can do. It’s a maturity process for him to try to develop into an NFL quarterback. … I understand the ‘wow’ effect, but it’s not a good thing for either quarterback. … I think it messes up the flow of any offense. ... I thought most of the trick plays that we ran, we could have done in our normal base offense. Of course, I wanted Mike to have an opportunity to get out on the field . . . [but] when you have an established quarterback [like me] . . . no one would have asked Peyton Manning or Tom Brady to do that.”
McNabb is absolutely right - amongst the teams least likely to be seen using such plays are the ones who would never dare take their starting quarterbacks off the field. Surely, however, there is some middle ground. The wildcat may have decreased significantly in popularity, but with its decline has come an evolution in the game with a higher focus on utilizing the dual-threat abilities of several of the league’s new generation of starting quarterbacks. Due to his reluctance to scramble and his reputation as a pocket passer collegiately, Smith’s athleticism can sometimes be understated. In unlocking Smith’s potential though, surely there is use for his 4.59-second forty-yard dash speed and instincts for the end zone. Perhaps it’s time to close the book on the wildcat, and open up the new one that has been used to scheme for the likes of Robert Griffin, Cam Newton and Colin Kaepernick.
Indeed, nothing should be more important to the Jets this season than developing Geno Smith and doing everything they can to make him succeed. A whole separate package just to have a quarterback attempt some running plays may not only be disruptive, but also unnecessary. If the Jets are looking to add a running dimension for the player taking their snaps, they need not look any further than their starter.