Having previously spent his entire professional career in the New York metropolitan area, Geno Smith is headed to the west coast.
Geno Smith is no longer in a New York state of mind.
The veteran quarterback, who took snaps with both of the metropolitan area’s NFL squads, signed a one-year deal with the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday night. ESPN’s Adam Schefter was the first to report the signing.
Former Jets’ and Giants’ QB Geno Smith reached agreement with the Los Angeles Chargers, per source.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) April 2, 2018
Thus ends the five-year New York tenure for Smith, whose roller-coaster professional career began in 2013.
After a prolific college career at West Virginia University, one that featured 102 total touchdowns, Smith was taken in the second round (39th overall) by the New York Jets in the 2013 draft.
Originally expected to learn behind veteran Mark Sanchez, Smith was thrust into the starter’s role when Sanchez was injured in a preseason game against the Giants. He wound up spending two years as the Jets’ primary thrower, but like many Jets quarterbacks before him, Smith’s years in green were mired by inconsistency and silliness.
In 30 games, 29 of which were starts, during the 2013 and 2014 seasons, Smith tallied 5,571 passing yards and 25 touchdowns. In his rookie year, he threw for 3,046 yards and completed 55.8 percent of his passes, both setting Jets rookie records.
Though Smith led the Jets to an 8-8 mark in his first year, the team regressed in 2014, and Smith was benched in favor of Michael Vick, though he eventually returned to the role. Over his four Jets seasons, Smith lost 43 turnovers, including 36 interceptions.
Despite a 3-10 record as a starter, Smith closed out 2014 with a bang, going 20-for-25 for a career-high 358 yards and three touchdowns, good for a perfect passer rating of 158.3 in a 37-24 win over Miami in the season finale. It was the Jets’ first “perfect game” since 2003, and the only one accomplished throughout the league that season.
Smith’s term as the Jets’ starter came to an unusual end in the summer of 2015. A locker room confrontation with rookie defensive lineman IK Enemkpali, reportedly over a $600 plane ticket, ended with Smith suffering a fractured jaw. Though Enemkpali was released shortly after the incident, it cost Smith his job, as Ryan Fitzpatrick took over starting duties in his absence.
Over the next two seasons, Smith appeared in three more games with the Jets, including one start that was cut short due to injury in 2016. Over those three games, Smith put up 391 yards and three touchdowns.
Smith, 27, became a free agent in 2017 and subsequently signed with the New York Giants, the Jets’ MetLife Stadium co-tenant. His primary purpose in blue was originally to provide veteran backup depth to Eli Manning, but he was also selected to serve as a mentor to incoming rookie Davis Webb.
However, Smith forever went down in New York infamy in December, when the Giants’ leadership, dealing with what became the first 3-13 season in franchise history, chose to start Smith for the team’s visit to Oakland.
In that process, Smith ended Manning’s streak of 210 consecutive starts. Under intense scrutiny, Smith performed admirably, going 21-for-34 for 212 yards and a touchdown. However, two lost fumbles, including one deep in the red zone, played a big part in the Giants’ 24-17 loss to the Raiders.
After head coach Ben McAdoo and general manager Jerry Reese were fired after the loss, Smith resumed his backup role, though he did not dress for the team’s victorious season finale against Washington.
Ironically, Smith is now teammates with the current holder of the longest active starting streak, Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers.
Famously drafted by the Giants with the fourth pick of the 2004 draft, Rivers was immediately swapped for Manning and has made 192 consecutive starts for Los Angeles. Smith will likely compete for the backup job with Cardale Jones, the former collegiate national champion who joined Los Angeles via a July trade with Buffalo.
It also more than likely ends the Chargers tenure of another ex-Jet quarterback, Kellen Clemens. Like Smith, Clemens was a former second-round selection of the Jets, taken 49th overall in 2006. Though he made no starts, Clemens, 34, had served as Rivers’ backup for the past four seasons.
With Smith’s departure, Manning and Webb remain the only quarterbacks on the Giants’ roster, though some expect them to take one with the second overall selection in this month’s trade.
Financial terms of Smith’s deal have yet to be disclosed.