While the prevailing thought is that the incumbent and the rookie will square off in a summer-long battle to determine the starter, the Jets braintrust isn't averse to declaring a winner in the coming weeks.
"We don't care what the prevailing thought is," new offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg told the Daily News about the perception that the quarterback battle will certainly be alive at the start of training camp. "We only care about our competition here."
Mornhinweg is looking for one of his signal callers to separate himself from the pack. "Common sense tells you that you hope it's quick, but this is going to be a full blown competition. Period."
Although there are four quarterbacks on the roster (Sanchez, Smith, Greg McElroy and Matt Simms), Sanchez or Smith will almost certainly win the job.
Mornhinweg wants one of the quarterbacks to distance himself during a critical, but often overlooked stretch of the offseason program that began on Monday. But could someone actually separate himself that much for the Jets brass to declare a winner by mid-June based on 10 OTA practices and three minicamp practices?
"Oh, absolutely," Mornhinweg said. "Sure. Absolutely. That's all part of the process. Absolutely. Everything we do is important. Our meetings are important… the way we go about our meetings, the way we go about our preparation right now with a new system. These are very important things. Every pass we throw out there in OTAs and these practices are important."
Sanchez's experience appears to give him an inherent advantage to seize control of the competition early. Smith, who spent much of his college career in shotgun, has spent a fair amount of time thus far sharpening his skills taking the ball under center with quarterbacks coach David Lee.
"David Lee is working overtime on many things," Mornhinweg said. "But certainly his footwork."
Mornhinweg made it clear that he's not overly concerned with timelines created by people outside the organization. He surely wouldn't call off the "full-blown competition" before training camp begins, right?
"I don't know that… " Mornhinweg said. "We'll see. Really. This thing is going to play itself out. It's going to be our competition… I want to give everybody an opportunity to show their skill and ability and their decision-making and their accuracy and their timing within this system."
Mornhinweg is mindful that the longer the competition lasts, the less time the eventual winner will have to work solely with the first-team offense.
"When you do it this way," Mornhinweg said, "you give up some reps individually for the possible starter if you don't select him quite as quickly."
However, the offensive play-caller isn't going to force the issue to get to a resolution.
"Once a man separates himself, then we'll think about making those choices (of officially naming the starter), but I want a man to separate himself," Mornhinweg said. "If not, we'll keep the competition grinding. That's important. That's important in this situation."
Mornhinweg admitted that naming a starter will be a collaborative decision.
"In any decision we make (regarding) playing time, what role a certain man's going to have, who's the starting quarterback," Mornhinweg said, "It will be discussed thoroughly virtually every day until we make a decision. I suspect that decision will come when we're all in it together. There's no question about that."
To that end, Mornhinweg has formulated a detailed — but flexible — plan through minicamp (June 11-13) to divvy up practice reps for each quarterback that was updated after David Garrard's abrupt decision to retire last week.
"I spent hours on this thing up to date on exactly how we're going to go about each practice," Mornhinweg said. "The staff has spent hours specifically with the first group, the second group, the third group… as well as the quarterback spots."
"It will change and adjust by recent past history," he added. "If there's a man that's had just two consecutive excellent (series), I'm going to give him an opportunity to go with the 1s … and let's see. So, those will be sort of fluid. But (I) certainly have an outline…. Now it may change and it may change very subtly or it may change drastically depending on how the fellas do."
The biggest question, of course, is what the team's decision makers do if Sanchez and Smith play at comparable levels in the coming weeks/months and possibly preseason games?
"I don't get into the stats as much as the production on film," Mornhinweg said. "Some of that depends on what group they have with them and who they're going against. All those things come into play."
"I'm excited about the quarterback situation."
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