Geno Smith looked like a broken man behind the lectern.
In the face of his previous struggles, the second-year quarterback had remained resolute in his ability to lead the Jets' offense. And despite a string of head-scratching interceptions and stalled drives this season, he had exuded unwavering confidence.
That is, until Sunday.
On this day, after this particular loss, Smith's voice was low and full of dejection. He also conceded that he could benefit from watching from the sideline.
What went wrong? "Everything,'' said Smith, who was benched after throwing three interceptions in a span of six plays in the first quarter of the Jets' 43-23 loss to the Buffalo Bills at MetLife Stadium. "It was just atrocious the way I started out. I never expected to start out a game like that.''
For the first time since 2005, when Herm Edwards went 4-12 in his final season as their coach, the Jets (1-7) have lost seven straight games. They've been outscored 132-65 in their past four games, and playoff talk has been replaced by sentiments of playing for pride.
"It's disheartening because we aren't a bad football team,'' said Eric Decker (seven catches, 40 yards). "We just do stupid stuff, you know.''
Smith, who was replaced by Vick with 4:32 left in the first quarter, finished 2-for-8 for 5 yards and a 0.0 passer rating. Vick gave the offense a much-needed spark but committed three turnovers of his own.
And now Rex Ryan must decide which quarterback to turn to next Sunday against the Chiefs in Kansas City.
"I have no idea,'' he said. "We'll look at that later.''
Smith sounded as if he already knows there's a chance he won't start -- either because of his play against the Bills or his health. He was spotted walking toward the X-ray room after the game, and a team spokesman later said he had X-rays taken of his right (throwing) shoulder.
"I've got work cut out for myself,'' Smith said. "It's something that I believe that I can get turned around.''
Asked if he could benefit from watching Vick play, Smith said: "It's never an ideal situation for any quarterback, but I have to learn from it. I have to take those mental reps and find a way to get better from it.''
On the Jets' second possession, with the Bills already leading 7-0, Smith threw an ill-advised third-down pass to Percy Harvin that was picked off and returned 13 yards to the Jets' 33 by cornerback Stephon Gilmore.
Smith's second interception came on a third-and-9 pass intended for Jeff Cumberland that was picked off by linebacker Preston Brown at the 50.
The last straw came minutes later, when Smith overthrew Decker. Safety Aaron Williams intercepted it and ran it back 26 yards before Smith pushed him out of bounds at the 1.
That set up a 1-yard touchdown pass to wide-open tight end Lee Smith from Kyle Orton (10-for-17, 238 yards, four touchdowns, no interceptions) that gave the Bills a 14-0 lead. "I really hurt us today,'' Smith said.
The Jets got within 24-17 by scoring 10 unanswered points, including a 55-yard field goal by Nick Folk as time ran out in the first half. Chris Ivory had a pair of 2-yard TD runs in the half. But the Bills scored the next 19 points.
The Jets ultimately were done in by 10 penalties for 90 yards and six turnovers by their quarterbacks -- four interceptions and two fumbles.
Defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson gave a tepid response when asked if he still believes in Smith. "Hey, three turnovers in the first quarter. You know you can't do that,'' he said. "So, hey, if he's the starter next week, he's the starter. If not, he's not. That's the way the business works.''
Vick, meanwhile, embraced the idea of a QB switch. "I would love to start,'' he said after going 18-for-36 for 153 yards and gaining 69 yards on eight carries.
Ryan hasn't told the team who will start. But regardless of whether he chooses Smith or Vick, the Jets need better play from the quarterback position.
"I'm getting sick and tired of losing, that's for sure,'' said Ryan, who reiterated that he's not worried about his immediate job security. " . . . I promise you that we're a heck of a lot closer than these scores indicate.''
He also said he believes Smith will "eventually be a really good'' NFL quarterback. "Again, time will tell,'' he said. "I think the young man has the ability. I do. He has the mental toughness. It's just a matter of time.''
Yes, but how much time?