By Brad Carroll
To say a lot has changed with the New York Jets this offseason would be an understatement. The Jets have completely upgraded the roster, from the secondary to the offensive line to the wide receiver position. Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan has wasted no time addressing the team's biggest weaknesses, winning over the fan base in short order.
Of course, there is still the one big missing piece to the puzzle the Jets have been searching for since Ken O'Brien led the franchise. The Jets need a franchise quarterback. A lot have tried over the years to grab that title, from Boomer Esiason to Neil O'Donnell to Vinny Testaverde to Chad Pennington to Mark Sanchez to even Geno Smith. All have failed to grab the reigns, whether because of age, injury or just wearing out their welcome, and the Jets continue to suffer.
The Jets did address the position this offseason, trading with the Houston Texans for discarded quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. He joins Smith and Matt Simms on the depth chart, but if the Jets go into next season with those three quarterbacks on the roster, nobody will be excited, even with the flurry of moves made across the roster.
Fitzpatrick is way past his prime, if he ever had one, and would be a one-year stop gap at best. Fitzpatrick can lead this now-talented team to the playoffs, but he should have serious question marks surrounding him, as the Texans chose Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett over him. If Houston doesn't believe Fitzpatrick is on the same playing field as Hoyer and Mallett, what can the Jets truly expect from him?
As for Smith, Jets fans know everything they need to know. Smith has been a complete failure in his two years as a starter. Smith is a turnover machine and has shown no potential to being the Jets' answer at quarterback.
However, going into next season, both Fitzpatrick and Smith would be locked in a tight battle for the starting job.
Unless, of course, the Jets get the opportunity to take former Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota with the sixth overall pick in the upcoming NFL Draft.
"I'd love to play for the Jets," Mariota said via USA Today at the Maxwell Football Club awards ceremony in Atlantic City Friday. "Meeting with the offensive coordinator (Chan Gailey) and the quarterbacks coach (Kevin Patullo) was awesome. It was an opportunity for me to introduce myself, and it seems like a great organization."
Now, Mariota would say that about every single team in the NFL if asked, as he is trying to sell himself to the entire league, but it still makes the marriage a little closer to reality. Jets fans can dream, even if the franchise has a deep history in the draft of things not going their way.
Even if Mariota does fall to No. 6, he might not end up being the answer to the Jets' long search for a franchise quarterback. But if he's still on the board, Maccagnan can't think twice about taking the Heisman trophy winner. Yes, there are questions about Mariota successfully transforming from a great college quarterback to a professional one, but every single passer coming out of college has question marks. Even Peyton Manning had his detractors.
In our Jets' seven-round mock draft, we have Mariota falling to the Jets, and that is the best-case scenerio for the franchise. Geno Smith is not the answer. We know that. Ryan Fitzpatrick is not the answer. Everyone knows that. Marcus Mariota might not be the answer either. But unlike the previous two, Mariota could be.
The Jets and their fans should hope and pray Mariota is still there at No. 6. The franchise needs him desperately.