Jets QB Vick still poses formidable challenge
Amid a 1-8 start, New York Jets coach Rex Ryan is hitching his wagon to quarterback Michael Vick in hopes the former Pro Bowler can salvage something out of an otherwise lost season.
Vick might not save Ryan’s job, but beating the Steelers (6-3) on Sunday at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., could help heal the wounds of a team in disarray.
“I’m going to continue to play within myself and try to bring the guys along with me to play their best football,” Vick said Wednesday. “I have to continue to be bold and show the guys I’ll go down fighting for them.
“Things aren’t going well, but the one thing we don’t want to do is hang our heads. As quarterbacks, you have to be the leaders of this football team.”
The Jets haven’t won since a 19-14 escape against the winless Oakland Raiders in Week 1. They are stuck in an eight-game losing streak; West Virginia product Geno Smith has been banished to the bench.
“We’ve been in most of these games,” Ryan said Wednesday. “We’ve been within a possession, but I know the scores don’t indicate that. At the end of the day, they always say you are what your record says you are.
“We’ve been competitive. We just haven’t found ways to win.”
Ryan believes Vick gives the Jets a better chance at winning. Smith made Ryan’s decision easier when he threw interceptions on three straight possessions in the first quarter of a 43-23 defeat before an angry home crowd that booed Smith unmercifully.
Vick, who has a 1-1-1 career record against the Steelers, made his first start with New York against AFC West challenger Kansas City on Sunday. He was 21 of 28 for 196 yards and a touchdown in a 24-10 setback.
Vick has a huge challenge in trying to regain respectability for a team that is 3-10 in home games against the Steelers. The Jets face five playoff contenders in their final seven games, including AFC East rivals New England (7-2), Buffalo (5-3) and Miami (5-3).
For now, Vick appears entrenched as New York’s starter. Still, Ryan didn’t rule out the possibility of his second-year quarterback, Smith, working his way back into the lineup.
“They both are athletic, and Mike can run with anyone at that position still,” Ryan said. “Mike’s got that veteran experience to him. It’s just the right time to go with him.”
The oft-erratic, sometimes-befuddled Smith struggled in his efforts to recognize coverage schemes. As a consequence, he threw 10 interceptions against only seven touchdowns in eight starts.
Vick finds himself in the role of mentor. And he has leaned heavily on his past experiences to help smooth Smith’s rough edges.
“The things I do now, the way I read defenses and the way see the field is totally different,” said Vick, who led Atlanta to 2002 NFC divisional playoffs in his second season. “I still find ways to get better and find things to work on. I didn’t understand that when I was younger.”
The Steelers, of course, will face a slower, less mobile Vick than they did during a 41-38 shootout that Atlanta won in 2006. However, he appears far more polished.
“He doesn’t have the 4.1 speed (in the 40), but he has the elusiveness,” defensive end Cam Heyward said. “He can make something out of nothing, so we have to get him on the ground quick.”
Ralph N. Paulk is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at [email protected].