The Jets' quarterback situation gets referred to as a soap opera pretty often. But at this point, it's become more bizarre and less funny than that, going into the realm of Beckett and Kafka: everything's a mess, there isn't a clear way out, and nobody's behaving in ways that make sense.
One ramification of this: all of a sudden, the team seems exempt from the specific kind of omertà that applies to the fraternity that is professional football. Most NFL players won't talk trash about their peers unless that peer plays for a traditional rival, instigated an on-field beef, or is involved in an intra-locker-room feud. And even then most criticism is about attitude, not ability — players will call each other lazy or dirty or selfish, but rarely question whether a peer belongs in the league. But now, in the wake of teammates anonymously and viciously bashing Tim Tebow's quarterbacking skills , another random guy with zero connection to the Jets has started taking unprovoked shots at them: Steve Smith, the great, hotheaded Carolina Panthers receiver, decided to add to Mark Sanchez's many troubles yesterday during a radio interview without any substantial provocation. (And sure, maybe the interviewer baited him into it — I don't know what conversation preceded this statement — but still: most players are very careful not to say something like this.)
When you think about it, Smith's (seemingly spontaneous) criticism (of another team's quarterback) becomes even more bracing: think of the guys Smith HAS caught passes from in his career. (We're assuming, for the purposes of this post, that Smith has an even higher standard for catching footballs than catching "paper bag sandwiches.") Smith started playing for the Panthers in 2001; over his 12 seasons since then, the Panthers have started the following guys at quarterback:
Chris Weinke (career QB rating: 62.2)
Chris Weinke's record as an NFL starting quarterback? 2-18. That's a 10% winning percentage. For someone who was skilled enough to be drafted as a professional football player, it seems like you should win more often than that by sheer chance.
Matt Lytle (39.3)
Rodney Peete (73.3)
When Rodney Peete is the best quarterback you've played with, you know you've had a difficult career so far.
Randy Fasani (8.8)
Leaving the photo description from the wire service in here because it's HILARIOUS: "Defensive Tackle Warren Sapp #99 and Defensive End Greg Spires #94 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers laugh after sacking Quarterback Randy Fasani #12 of the Carolina Panthers during the NFL game at Ericsson Stadium on October 27, 2002 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The Buccaneers won 12-9."
Jake Delhomme (81.3)
What Jake Delhomme lacks in being a bad quarterback — during his time with the Panthers, Delhomme made a Pro Bowl and a Super Bowl — he makes up for by being a pitchman for Bojangles.
Vinny Testaverde (75.0)
Vinny Testaverde is the greatest football player of all time. He was 44 years old when he started six games for the Panthers in 2007. That is the coolest. But still: Steve Smith had to catch passes from a 44-year-old.
David Carr (74.9)
Remember when David Carr started four games for the Panthers? lololol of course you don't, nobody remembers that.
Matt Moore (80.5)
Jimmy Clausen (58.4)
Steve Smith wouldn't catch passes from Mark Sanchez. Steve Smith caught passes from Jimmy Clausen. There has never been a harsher insult.
Brian St. Pierre (45.6)
And finally: Cam Newton (85.3)
To be fair, Newton's already one of the best young passers in the league. Compared to Sanchez, he's basically some combination of Joe Montana and the Incredible Hulk. But the larger point is that Steve Smith, who is not shy, has dealt with some pretty lousy quarterbacks and never said anything quite as pointedly dismissive of them as he is of Sanchez here.
At this point, the Jets, and in particular their quarterbacks, have become the NFL's second-class citizens, vulnerable to spontaneous broadsides from random players. Back when Rex Ryan and the team was riding high, he was the first to go and fire shots at other teams and players. Now, everyone's returning the favor.
H/T to NFL.com's Mark Sessler