FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) Fitz Magic fizzled, so it’s Geno Smith’s turn – again.
The New York Jets will start Smith at quarterback on Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens at MetLife Stadium, sending Ryan Fitzpatrick and his one-year, $12 million contract to the sideline.
“I felt like it was time for a change,” coach Todd Bowles said after practice Wednesday.
At the NFL fall meetings in Houston, Jets owner Woody Johnson said it was Bowles’ call to go with Smith, with the Jets sinking at 1-5 and on a four-game losing streak.
“I am behind the coach 100 percent,” Johnson said. “Our coach made the decision he felt needed to be made.”
Bowles confirmed that it was “strictly my call.”
Fitzpatrick has been a major reason for the Jets’ struggles, throwing an NFL-leading 11 interceptions and just five touchdown passes during a brutal start.
After the Jets lost 28-3 at Arizona on Monday night, Bowles said Fitzpatrick would remain the starter. But he backtracked a bit Tuesday during a conference call , saying it’s always “status quo” right after games and he wanted to discuss things with his staff and general manager Mike Maccagnan that night. During those meetings, Bowles decided to go with Smith.
“Geno’s our starter right now,” Bowles said. “We’ll see how things go down the line.”
Bowles added that it’s possible the Jets could turn to Fitzpatrick again at some point.
“I can only go week to week,” the coach said.
Smith was the Jets’ starter last summer until his jaw was broken by a punch from then-teammate Ikemefuna Enemkpali during training camp. Fitzpatrick then took over and went on to throw a franchise-record 31 touchdown passes and get within a win of the playoffs at 10-6.
After garnering little interest in the free-agent market, Fitzpatrick re-signed with the Jets on the eve of training camp, a move most Jets players celebrated . Fitzpatrick has had a rough go of it this season, including a six-interception performance at Kansas City on Sept. 25 but still appeared to have the support of most of his teammates.
New York’s offensive woes were hard for Bowles to overlook, though. The Jets rank 26th overall and are last in the NFL in scoring with 15.8 points per game. Their red-zone offense is also worst in the league, scoring just eight touchdowns in 22 trips inside the opponents’ 20-yard line (36.4 percent).
Smith tried to stay patient, but he told an ESPN reporter before the game Monday night that he was getting antsy while being stuck on the sideline as the team struggles.
Now, Smith will have a chance to revive both his career and the Jets’ playoff hopes.
“It’s not about leadership,” Bowles said, adding that both Fitzpatrick and Smith have displayed that quality. “It’s about production.”
Smith last started a game in the 2014 season finale at Miami, where he threw for 358 yards and three touchdowns while compiling a perfect 158.3 quarterback rating in a 37-14 win.
In his first game action since that outing, Smith replaced Fitzpatrick in the fourth quarter against the Cardinals and connected on his first four passes. On third-and-3 from the Cardinals 40, Smith fumbled as he was sacked, but the Jets recovered. He was intercepted by Tyrann Mathieu on the next play, the Jets’ final offensive possession.
New York’s quarterback situation remains unsettled but intriguing as the Jets are the only team in the league carrying four quarterbacks on the active roster. Bryce Petty, a fourth-rounder last year, and rookie Christian Hackenberg, a second-rounder, are also in the mix – and some fans are clamoring to see one of the youngsters sooner rather than later.
Bowles acknowledged Tuesday that it’s “definitely possible” that Petty or Hackenberg could play down the line, but added that the Jets “still got some stages to go before we get to that point.”
Smith was a second-round draft pick out of West Virginia in 2013 and started all but two games during his first two seasons. Smith showed momentary flashes but was largely inconsistent while throwing 25 TD passes and 34 interceptions in that span.
He appeared to be settling into new offensive coordinator Chan Gailey’s system, which seemed to suit his athletic style, last season. But then came the locker-room incident that threw his career into uncertainty and set in motion Fitzpatrick’s terrific season.
Now, it’s back to Smith. At least, for now.
AP Pro Football Writer Barry Wilner in Houston contributed to this report.
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