“In a perfect world,” the Jets will have Ryan Fitzpatrick back, Mike Maccagnan said. But if not, they do have a Plan B. And it includes Geno Smith.
“Going forward, you always have contingency plans,” the Jets general manager said Monday on “The Michael Kay Show” on ESPN radio. “In the NFL, it’s kind of like playing chess. At some point in time, you get down to where you run out of moves. We’re not at that stage yet.
“Right now, Geno has been a starter for us, and actually played quite well prior to getting hurt last year, and was doing a good job in the offseason. So we’re kind of excited to see what Geno can do, coming back. And we feel good about that.”
Smith, now entering his fourth year in the league, lost his starting job to Fitzpatrick on Aug. 11 when his jaw was broken by then-teammate IK Enemkpali during a locker room dispute. In his absence, the Jets did just fine.
Fitzpatrick threw 31 touchdown passes and led the team to a 10-6 record, one win shy of a playoff berth. But the ongoing contract staredown between the free-agent quarterback and the Jets is threatening Maccagnan’s master plan.
On Friday, he found his quarterback of the future when the Jets picked Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg in the second round of the draft.
So, will Jets fans get to see Hackenberg in action this season? Well, the answer depends on Hackenberg himself.
“With any player coming into the league, it is definitely a maturation process and it doesn’t matter, again, what position you play,” Maccagnan said. “I think quarterback is probably one of the harder positions to transition into the NFL. I know there’s always a desire to have them go out there and play right away. The reality is, though, that it’s going to be determined by how he does.
“And I think, my personal opinion is, we’ll see where he’s at and how he is in terms of assimilating into our offense and our system . . . Some quarterbacks come in and play right away and some do well and some struggle and they go through growing pains.”
Smith, another Jets’ second-round selection, was viewed as a project by the organization when he was drafted in 2013. But he was thrown into the starter’s role after veteran Mark Sanchez suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in Week 3 of the preseason.
Naturally, the Jets’ new regime is hoping not to have to force-feed this year’s second-round selection. Maccagnan believes he’s found a winner in Hackenberg, but patience could be the key to uncapping his potential.
“In a perfect world, you’d like to give those guys a chance to sort of grow, develop, before you have to throw them into the fire,” Maccagnan said. “And hopefully, if we can re-sign Ryan, and we have Geno, and kind of go from there and see how we do.
“And we also have Bryce Petty, who’s another quarterback we like quite a bit.”