One day after Geno Smith had a four-turnover game at Tennessee earlier this season, Jets Coach Rex Ryan admitted he was toying with the idea of implementing a color-coded system of play-calling for Smith, similar to something he did for Mark Sanchez when Sanchez was struggling as a rookie.
The plays were on the quarterback’s wristband, with the game situations shaded much like a traffic signal. Green meant let it rip, yellow meant caution and red stood for extreme caution.
Ryan soon decided against it. But judging by the Jets’ recent game plans, maybe the plan is in place, only without the wristband. And red seems to be the only color represented.
With rookie Smith’s turnovers mounting, the Jets have turned ultra-conservative on offense recently. In the last three games, Smith has completed a total of 25 passes. He is the first starting NFL quarterback to have three straight games with single-digit completions since Tim Tebow with Denver in 2011.
Ryan said Wednesday, “Is there a conscious effort of protecting the football? Absolutely, there’s a conscious effort of doing that.”
“I’ll take full responsibility that we haven’t been as effective” on offense, Ryan said, bristling somewhat. “It’s on me because we’ve been running the ball too much. I’ve got you. I’ll take it. I’m with you all the way.
“When it works, it makes sense,” he added. “When it doesn’t, (the complaint is) ‘hey, we’re running too much (or) not running enough.’ I get it.”
Ryan’s color-coding system worked for Sanchez down the stretch in 2009, as the Jets won five of their last six regular-season games with Sanchez playing a minimal role. But this year’s squad has lost three of its last four, partly because Smith’s supporting cast is younger and not as good as the one Sanchez benefited from having as a rookie in 2009.
As much as they fear turnovers by Smith, and rightly so, the Jets may have to take some downfield shots Sunday against Miami simply to loosen up the defenses. With little fear of Smith, teams lately have stacked the box with eight or sometimes nine defenders, daring Smith to throw. The Jets haven’t taken the bait very often.
“When you’re throwing the ball down the field, it’s not ever a high-percentage pass unless the guy’s wide open,” Smith said Wednesday. “It takes a ton of precision. And quite honestly, I haven’t been as precise as I was in the first couple games.
“We don’t make any excuses,” Smith added. “If we run the ball and the box is stacked, we still have to get the yards, block and run the ball. And then if we pass the ball, we have to make plays down the field. We just have to execute better.”
Smith was asked what he has been thinking of offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg’s play calls.
“Honestly, I like all of the plays that are called,” Smith said. “I know that Marty spends a ton of time developing the game plan for us, one that will put us in the best situation.”
JETS NOTES: There was no media availability Thursday, although the Jets did practice. Receiver Santonio Holmes (hamstring, foot) and tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. (knee) didn’t practice, although both likely were taking a day of rest because of chronic injuries.