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Alex Smith questions whether defensive head coaches can develop quarterbacks

Mike Florio and Chris Simms analyze the message Quinnen Williams is sending to the Jets via social media and evaluate how his abilities stack up against other interior defensive linemen.

Whether a young quarterback becomes a great quarterback depends on many factors. A big one is coaching.

Former NFL quarterback Alex Smith has strong opinions regarding whether a defensive head coach is able to develop a young quarterback. Via, Smith recently shared some of his thoughts on SiriusXM NFL Radio.

“There is a different mentality, from my career, when you play for an offensive head coach that wants to light up the scoreboard and outscore the opponent,” Smith said. “There’s a different mentality you have, especially as a young quarterback versus a defensive head coach, when really the [coach’s] mentality is ‘Hey, don’t screw up, don’t turn the ball over, don’t put us in a bad situation.’ . . . That’s a huge difference in a mentality and a mindset for a young quarterback, especially if it’s a bit rocky to start.”

It was more than a bit rocky to start for Jets quarterback Zach Wilson, who has had only a defensive head coach during his career. Smith specifically focused on that situation.

“Robert Saleh, you’re a great defensive mind and coordinator, but like you have no idea how to develop a quarterback,” Smith said. “The coordinator you hired never called plays. So that’s a completely different animal. And as much as you think you’re prepared to handle that development of a young kid, you’re just not.”

It’s an intriguing point. In recent years, I’ve expressed a preference for offensive head coaches because, if things go well for the offense, the offensive coordinator gets a head-coaching job somewhere else -- and the defensive coach will have to then go find a new coordinator. With an offensive coach, if things go well, the core partnership doesn’t change.

Smith’s point focuses on the question of whether things don’t go well. If the offensive coordinator can’t develop the quarterback. Really, what can a defensive-minded coach add in that area?

This year, the Jets have a fully-developed quarterback, and an offensive coordinator with experience. If/when the Jets move forward with Zach Wilson as the quarterback and Nathaniel Hackett as the coordinator, maybe things will go better for the second overall pick in the 2021 draft.