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Palladino: Hiding Geno Smith Was Rex Ryan's Act Of Defiance

By Ernie Palladino
» More Ernie Palladino Columns

It would not be out of character for Rex Ryan to flash John Idzik and all the GM's allies a big, ringless middle finger on his way out the door of the Jets' training complex, whenever that day comes.

But think about this. What if Ryan decided not to wait until he found Woody Johnson's pink slip in his office mailbox to offer his "Howdy-do-to-you-too?" Maybe Monday's 16-13 loss to the Dolphins was about telling those who forced Ryan to reinstate Geno Smith at starting quarterback, "You want him? You got him. But I don't have to use him!"

It's not an outlandish thought if one considers the background. According to reports, the Jets' coaching staff to a man wanted Michael Vick in there. That's understandable. Smith long ago proved himself incapable of running an effective offense, at least when he put the ball in the air. Vick, despite flaws that included a certain recklessness, clearly gave these 2-10 Jets a better chance to win.

Ryan wanted Vick. Marty Mornhinweg wanted Vick. Heck, even the 15 fans who showed up to a MetLife Stadium ghost town wanted Vick, so much so that Smith wasn't even introduced with the offense.

Instead, the higher-ups -- Idzik, probably Johnson -- most likely forced Smith on the coaching staff. Gotta see what they have in Smith, as if he's still a mystery. Idzik undoubtedly hopes there's another John Unitas hiding under the bad decisions and errant throws.

Ryan, always a team guy in public, called it a Jets decision, a phrasing that fell somewhat short of a ringing endorsement. But behind closed doors, if the media leakage is to be believed, Ryan is furious that the 2014 roster makeup has been a cynical, diabolical attempt by the general manager to get the head coach out and bring in his own guy. L'affair Geno is just the final act in Idzik's Shakespearean plot to kill off Johnson's favorite son.

For his part, Ryan wants to win as many games as possible, in his own manner, with his own guy. He'll be looking for a new gig soon, and going down in flames on the strong arm and weak head of a second-year quarterback doesn't add much to the resume.

So what was Ryan to do? He wants to win just as much as the players, but he knew he couldn't if he let Smith throw to any great extent. He's too honorable to put Smith in for the first two series, pull him for Vick, and then use some trumped-up injury as the reason. The fans would have built Ryan a monument if he did that, but that's not Rex.

So he did the next best thing. He played the game without Smith, and darned near pulled it off. Until the final drive, Ryan called just 13 passes, with Smith compiling eight attempts and three scrambles. He was sacked twice. In the meantime, the Jets ran 49 times for 277 yards, and even got a Greg Salas touchdown out of it on an end-around.

Anyone doubting the above theory should ask one question : If Vick had been in there, do you think he would have handed the ball off after seeing Eric Decker consistently covered by R.J. Stanford, the Dolphins' fifth cornerback starter who landed in Miami less than a week ago? Might Decker have seen more than four throws his way, of which he caught two for 18 yards? And might Percy Harvin have done more than catch one ball for six yards and run so much that the Dolphins finally caught onto his antics in the second half?

Not a chance.

But Ryan, a good soldier, did what he was told. He put Smith in there. He will continue to put Smith in there as long as the bosses demand it. And if the Jets roll out another game plan like Monday's, he will be as disingenuous in his postgame statements as he was after Smith threw his obligatory game-ending interception.

"It had zero to do with us not having faith in our quarterback," Ryan said. "It had everything to do with us trying to win the game."

The second part was the truth. The first? Utter hogwash.

Ryan knows Smith can't win. He knows that drafting him last year was Idzik's biggest mistake in a long line of them. Ryan may be defiant, but he is not insubordinate

So he told Idzik through the game plan, "You want him? Fine. Here he is. But he's not going to take ME down."

All said with his middle finger fully extended.

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