Friday, March 28, 2014

Disecting MMQB Andy Benoit's criticism of the New York Jets

Well it’s that time of year again when national sports writers are forced to generate web content about football and yet there is very little to write about.  What is one to do? Speculate. Writers masquerade as experts under the umbrella of a national website. Regrettably their lack of insight, petty guesswork and general half-assed approach tends to shine through like a lighthouse on pitch-black night.  

Today’s rube is MMQB’s Andy Benoit; who takes the Jets to task for their recent signing of Michael Vick and accuses the team of creating a phony quarterback competition.   As Benoit begins in his sub headline:

 “All signs point to a faux QB competition and a decision-making group simply trying not to get fired.”

Benoit is entitled to his opinion, after all that’s what this piece is.  Unfortunately Benoit has no facts to back up his opinion. Benoit questions:

“…Then why sign Vick for so much money? Teams generally don’t give $4 million to backups.”

Turns out with a simple visit to the highest paid backups in football do make around $4 million per year. Matt Moore of the Dolphins, $4 million (who makes more than starter Ryan Tannehill), Matt Hasselbeck of the Colts $3.625 million, Ryan Fitzpatrick of the Texans $3.625 million, Kyle Orton of the Cowboys $3.5 million, Chase Daniel of the Chiefs 3.33 million.   That list doesn’t even include Matt Cassel or Chad Henne (who both make as much or more than Vick) because we don’t know if they plan to draft a quarterback in the first round of May’s NFL draft. 

 Strike one. So we’ve established that Benoit is one of the worst things you can be as a writer; lazy. Benoit continues:

“The Jets would not even have looked into signing Vick if they didn’t harbor genuine discomfort about Smith. The question is, What’s driving that discomfort?”

That is one way of interpreting the signing of Vick. Geno Smith showed bright spots as well as some dreadful moments that resulted in his benching in favor of Matt Simms.  Simms did not show enough in his spots to lead the team to victory when Smith imploded.  The Jets felt they needed a stronger backup, a player with the ability to salvage a game. Vick fit that mold almost perfectly because of his familiarity with offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg. 

No problem, so far…

“But like a lot of rookies, he could not immediately take the next step, which is to process the play design in conjunction with reading the defense. So he’d fall into valleys of struggles, evidenced most plainly by his barrages of turnovers (25 on the season)…
Ryan has lauded the 23-year-old’s progress as a rookie, but in reality, Ryan and Mornhinweg took things off Smith’s plate as last season wore on. The Jets became more of a run-based offense, relying less on their deep-dropping, progression-read passes.”

In other words Ryan and Mornhinweg did what smart coaches do; adapt to the situation they are confronted with and put the team in the best position to win.  The Jets coaching staff realized their quarterback was struggling with what they were asking him to do and adjusted their offense to Smith’s strengths. In most cases coaches are lauded for making adjustments and putting their team in a position to win, but not the Jets. 

And then there’s the possibility that the Vick signing is a product of the coaches and front office strengthening their own illusion of job security. Woody Johnson has evolved into a meddling owner (his prerogative). That’s the biggest reason why handfuls of candidates turned down the Jets GM job before Idzik was finally hired. In January, Ryan (and by extension, his coaching staff) got a new contract, but according to the New York Daily News, it is only guaranteed through 2015. Ryan is still a coach on thin ice.

Pure conjecture. Benoit’s entire conclusion is formed around the picture that has been painted about the organization from the outside.  The entire paragraph is perception and the only fact was that Ryan’s contract is guaranteed through 2015. The biggest reason GM’s were reported to have turned down the Jets position was the misconception that the team was in cap hell,  a point that was repeatedly proved not to be true.

The Jets have gone on record as saying they plan to build their team through the draft, as they are tied with the Rams for having a league-high 12 draft picks, in the 2014 draft.  If they were in win-now job saving mode they would have signed every free agent available like the Oakland Raiders did. At the least Ryan’s extension proves the team is invested in him and his staff for two seasons. That would tend to follow what the team has said; building this team is going to take time.
Strike two.  Choosing to ignore facts and supporting an argument based on misinformation, pretty sloppy Benoit.
Finally Benoit exposes himself as a hack. 

“Not surprisingly, the open market left Vick unsigned for a week and a half. In contrast, it took only 24 hours for Josh McCown, the other unsigned mid-30s quarterback who straddles the line between backup and starter, to get a two-year deal with Tampa Bay…

Still, this change illuminates alarming problems in the Jets organization. Either the front office and coaches believe they missed badly on their 2013 early second-round pick, or they feel compelled to go with a safer but inconsistent veteran who offers no long-term dividends because owner Woody Johnson can’t see past January 2015.” 

Josh McCown is a solid comparison until you look at the facts (again).  New Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Lovie Smith is much more familiar with McCown as he was signed by the Bears back in 2011; when Smith was then the head coach of Chicago. As most of us came to find out Mike Vick was holding out hope that he would be signed as a starting quarterback this season.  After about a week and a half, the market dried up and the only positions left were backup spots.  After Vick signed he went on record as saying “As of right now, Geno’s the starting quarterback of this football team.”  Since Idzik arrived at One Jets Drive, the team’s mantra has been about competition, at every position. The team was widely criticized for their nurturing of former quarterback Mark Sanchez, with claims that they constantly coddled him. The team is now taking a different approach and to no surprise they are being criticized for it.

To Andy Benoit the Jets are already throwing in the towel on Geno Smith, a player who had some serious rough spots but finished the season showing promise. They are providing competition to a second round draft pick, a round that draft experts tell us “you don’t have to be married to.” If anything, the signing of Vick means one person’s job is in jeopardy: Geno Smith.  The team hasn’t invested that much in Smith and he has to prove he is the guy this season.  If not, the team will simply draft a new quarterback in 2015.

Strike three Benoit.  You’re out.