New York Jets fans have waited for two years to see if Geno Smith is the answer to Gang Green’s decades-long search for a franchise quarterback. But after being ranked last in the NFL’s quarterback rankings once again, is the third year the charm for Geno?
By Jeff Weisinger
Sometimes being ranked last in your profession by your peers could be funny. Sometimes it could be motivation to do better. In the case of New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith, it’s the first.
Despite being benched in favor of veteran left-hander Michael Vick in a season that saw the Jets go just 4-12, Smith still laughed at the recent ESPN poll of the NFL’s 32 starting quarterbacks.
“It was hilarious last year too,” Smith said to Brian Costello of the New York Post. “It doesn’t matter at this point. We’ve got to work on us as a team. That’s why I hate to talk about individual stuff because it’s a team game. No matter what they rate me, wherever we finish at the end of the year is most important.”
While Smith is right on his rant about football being a team game, where his peers see him also isn’t wrong. Geno went just 3-10 as a starter in 14 games (13 starts) in 2014, throwing for just 2,525 yard with 13 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. While he threw one more touchdown and had a higher completion percentage than his 2013 rookie campaign, he was worst everywhere else.
He won just three games in 2014 after going 8-8 as the starter the year before, threw for more yards in 2013 (given the fact he played in three more games) and threw for a lower yards per game average (180.4 ypg) and yards per completion average (11.5 ypc) in 2014 than his rookie season.
Smith has only completed 57.5 percent of his passes in his brief two-year career so far and has turned the ball over a massive 41 times. New Jets head coach Todd Bowles hasn’t been shy about talking about Geno nor is he going to be shy about pulling him from the starting lineup if he cannot get things going for the Jets in 2015.
“If you feel that his position or any other position is hurting the team, as a head coach, it’s up to you to do something about it,” Bowles said. “It’s not a year-long thing for anybody. You earn you keep by the week. You earn your keep by the day.
“If somebody is not doing their job, it’s up to me to rectify the situation.”
One way Bowles can “rectify” the situation is to replace the young Geno with veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick, who has experience running Chan Gailey’s offense gives the Jets an idea of how the offense is supposed to look. There’s no question that Smith has all of the physical tools necessary to succeed in the NFL, it’s just whether or not he can actually do the job.
“It all depends on how he’s performing, whether it’s the first game, second game, third game,” Bowles explained. “Is it consecutive? Is it just a bad game? All those factors play into it. Again, it’s not just the quarterback. It’s every position on our team. … Everybody has to do their job. The quarterback is an important part of it, but he’s part of the team. And he’s treated like everybody else is treated.”
Despite “not-caring” about the rankings or what others thing about him as an NFL quarterback, Smith hasn’t done a bad job during training camp so far.
During the first weekend of training camp, Smith has looked sharp, showing poise and a strong arm with precision in tight spaces. He’s come into training camp with a different attitude than in years past – a different kind of confidence.
“There’s a maturation process that I don’t think people respect these days,” Smith mentioned. “I came in this league as a 21-year-old man. Now I’m a 24-year-old … older man. So I’ll have a better understanding of what’s required of me, and I think that gives me the confidence.”
Keep in mind that this is the same kid who said before his first day of rookie camp that he wants to be the “Michael Jordan of the NFL.”
In just two years in the NFL, Geno Smith has seen the ups-and-downs of life as a starting, and struggling starting quarterback. While he’s had some very bright moments, he’s had nearly three times as many bad moments. The Jets hope that his rocky welcome into the league ends this season.
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