The New York Jets dropped one quarterback, picked up another and raised questions about the future of a third within a matter of minutes.
Mark Sanchez is out.
Michael Vick is in.
Geno Smith, the team's 2013 starting quarterback, will be pushed.
"As of right now, Geno is the starting quarterback of this football team," Vick told reporters during a conference call after the moves were announced on Friday evening, not exactly implying the depth chart is set in stone.
As a rookie, Smith started all 16 games for the Jets as the team muddled through an 8-8 season. The signal-caller out of West Virginia showed promise as the team won three of its last four games but may be challenged by Vick for the starting spot in 2014.
The team's quarterback shuffle began when it announced the release of Sanchez on Friday evening.
Mark Sanchez has been released.
— New York Jets (@nyjets) March 21, 2014
The release of Sanchez, 27, was anticipated for months due to the money due to him as part of a lucrative contract extension signed in March 2012.
"I'd like to thank Mark for everything he's done for this team and me personally," Jets coach Rex Ryan said in a statement. "We were rookies together and had some early success, becoming the first rookie head coach and quarterback to go to back-to-back championship games. We experienced a lot together, and I really appreciate Mark. He's a great player, a great teammate, and I wish him nothing but the best."
Sanchez missed the 2013 season after undergoing surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder suffered during the preseason. The fifth overall selection in the 2009 NFL Draft, Sanchez had been competing with Smith at the time of his injury to be the team's starting quarterback. In his first two seasons with the Jets, Sanchez led the team to consecutive AFC Championship Games. In his second two seasons with the team, the USC product struggled as the team floundered. The nadir of the Sanchez Era in New York was the infamous "buttfumble" during a 49-19 loss to the New England Patriots on Thanksgiving in 2012. Sanchez leaves New York with a 37-31 record, including postseason.
Just 10 minutes after announcing the release of Sanchez, the team announced it had signed Vick.
It’s official. We’ve signed QB Michael Vick.
— New York Jets (@nyjets) March 21, 2014
Vick, a free agent, spent the last five seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles. The 33-year-old quarterback was named the NFL's 2010 Comeback Player Of The Year but struggled with injuries over the past three seasons. He was supplanted by Nick Foles as the Eagles' starting quarterback in 2013.
"It means a lot to have the chance to come in and play for a great organization that had a lot of success last year and being on the brink of doing some good things," Vick said in a statement. "Maybe I can come here and be an asset whenever my number's called. I'm excited, I'm elated, and I feel like this is a great opportunity for me and my family."
When the signing of Vick was announced, Jets offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, who previously coached Vick in Philadelphia, suggested that there would be some sort of quarterback competition between Smith and Vick.
"We are excited to acquire Michael Vick," Mornhinweg told the team's official website. "He's a great talent who's won many games, including playoff games, in this league. He has the respect of both his teammates and opponents. He's here in a role where he’s going to compete and push Geno Smith to become the very best that he can be. Michael will be able to go in and play at a high level and a winning level if called upon."
At least some Jets fans seemed to have a positive view of the pair of moves, perhaps because the Vick signing might foreshadow a bid for Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson.
Today is a good day. #Jets
— Jeff Capellini (@GreenLanternJet) March 21, 2014
Somewhere in Florham Park, Mike Vick is picking up the phone: "Hey DeSean. It's time to come to New Jersey. Time to ball out."
— Gang Green Nation (@GangGreenNation) March 21, 2014
There were others, meanwhile, who did not want Vick to join the team given his criminal involvement in dog fighting. Vick missed the 2007 and 2008 seasons after pleading guilty to conspiracy and running a dogfighting operation in August 2007. He served 19 months in prison and returned to the NFL with the Eagles for the 2009 season.
I just dumped every Jets hat and shirt in the trash - had my dog pee on it while I did it
— Mike Silva (@MikeSilvaMedia) March 21, 2014
New York Jets signed Dog Abuser Vick . Saying goodbye to Jets and burning my dog's Jets t -shirts etc. Sickening what people get away with
— AuntChristine (@NYCNeighbordog) March 22, 2014