A couple of weeks ago Scott asked the question Is Geno Smith Getting Better? I commented that I didn't see it, as follows:
He’s had a couple of basically NFL average games in a row, against weak teams. The team has scored 41 points in those two games, below NFL average. He’s averaged 217 yards passing in the two games. Obviously those numbers are better than some of his epically bad efforts, but they are still just marginal NFL QB numbers and they are nothing we haven’t seen before from Geno. When Geno has his first game where the defense is crumbling, the running game isn’t giving him 150+ yards, and he takes the team on his back, puts up 3 TDs, 300 yards and 30+ points to carry the Jets to a win, that will be indisputable improvement. Not saying he has to do that on a consistent basis, just show me once or twice he’s capable of carrying the team on occasion when nothing else is working and then he deserves another shot. Showing he’s capable of marginal numbers in at best NFL average performances is not much evidence to me that he’s improving nearly enough to deserve another shot.
So let's see. Defense not so good? 259 yards passing, 179 yards rushing, and 24 points allowed. Check. Running game not so good? 104 yards, 3.1 yards per carry. Check. Three TD passes? Check. 300 yards? Check. 30+ points? Check. And all accomplished without the Pro Bowl center and one of his two top receivers, on the road, against one of the better pass defenses in the NFL? Check, check, check and check.
This was the performance we've all been waiting for. In the last two years Geno spent most of his time at the absolute bottom of the NFL's starting quarterbacks. Today Geno was superb. The past two years Geno mostly put up performances that ranged from horrifically awful to mediocre, but not today. Today Geno Smith looked every bit the franchise quarterback. Today he carried the Jets to victory. Geno got the ball out on time. He threw it away when appropriate. He generally made good decisions. He made some achingly gorgeous throws, perhaps the best of which was a quick strike laser to Jeremy Kerley between two defenders. He repeatedly burned the Miami Dolphins deep. He put serious heat on the ball when appropriate, and showed a deft soft touch on other passes that required it. Geno was, for a day, brilliant.
Now, before we get carried away, a few caveats. As seems to be a Geno requirement, he made one inexplicable boneheaded play, the fumble where he held the ball like a loaf of bread. The game was meaningless, the season already decided for both teams, the players playing for nothing but pride. It is difficult to know how much weight to give such a performance against a team that might have been emotionally flat after last week's furious comeback against the Vikings only to face elimination later the same day. We should also note that Geno staged a nice surge at the end of last year in which he looked competent for the first time over a four game stretch.
Caveats duly noted. Now the reasons to be encouraged. Geno had one previous game in 2013 where he was brilliant, against Atlanta. However, that game came against arguably the worst pass defense in the NFL, while this game came against one of the better pass defenses in the league. That game also saw Geno throw for less than 200 yards, hardly a "putting the team on his back" performance, while this one saw Geno light up the scoreboard with 350+ yards. Geno also staged a late season surge the last four games of 2013. However in that surge he managed to average less than 200 yards passing per game and had a passer rating for the four games in the mid 80s, right around league average for the season. In this year's last four games Geno has 1001 yards passing, on pace for a 4000 yard season over 16 games, and a 105 passer rating, which would make him a Pro Bowl quarterback if carried through over 16 games. The sample size is still way too small, and the large majority of Geno's body of work says he will never amount to anything, but these last four games are certainly encouraging.
Geno Smith is still on an extremely inexpensive rookie deal, and there are few inspiring free agent options. The chances are very good Geno will be on this team in some capacity in 2015, and there is still a decent chance Geno Smith will be the NY Jets' starting quarterback in 2015. As much as that possibility may dismay some, it IS a possibility. Small sample size and all, meaningless games notwithstanding, today Geno Smith made that option a bit less alarming. Today, for the first time as a Jet, Geno looked the part of a franchise quarterback. One game does not a career make, and four meaningless games do not add up to the odds being in Geno's favor, but at the very least what we have seen from Geno Smith these last four weeks provides some hope. Today Geno was brilliant. It is a sentence I have been longing to write, but despaired of ever having reason to do so. It at least gives some hope. And with Geno likely on the team next year regardless of how he performed today, that beats the heck out of the alternative.