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NY Jets Spotlight: Geno Smith

Geno's last chance in New York starts on Sunday.

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Welcome to the Spotlight.  Here we spotlight one key player for each game of the season, hopefully putting a different player in the spotlight each week.  Today's player in the spotlight is Geno Smith.  Could there have been any other choice this week?

Smith, a 6' 3", 220 pound, 26 year old quarterback, was drafted by the Jets with the 39th overall pick in the second round of the 2013 draft.  Smith took over the starting job in New York immediately, starting all 16 games for the Jets in 2013.  He struggled mightily at times and finished the season as the lowest rated starting quarterback in the NFL as measured by passer rating.  Smith went through one of the worst three game stretches in NFL history in the middle of the 2013 season before rebounding a bit in the last four games.  Smith finished the 2013 season with 12 TD passes, 6 TD runs, 21 INTs, 8 fumbles, 25 turnovers and a passer rating of 66.5.  He followed that up with a 2014 campaign that saw him post a 77.5 passer rating and saw the team post an embarrassing 4-12 record.  Things got so bad for Geno in 2014 he was briefly benched in favor of Michael Vick, who in turn was so bad the Jets went back to Geno. It was a bad quarterback extravaganza.

Nonetheless Geno entered the 2015 training camp as the presumptive starter, though Ryan Fitzpatrick had been brought in as competition and as a backup plan should Geno once again falter.  Geno never got the chance to take over the job as the 2015 starting quarterback. His jaw was broken by a teammate in a locker room altercation before the first preseason game and Fitzpatrick replaced Geno as the starter.  When the Jets got off to a good start in 2015 and remained in the playoff hunt all year Fitzpatrick cemented his starting role and Geno became an afterthought.  Until, that is, Fitzpatrick played himself out of the starting job to begin the 2016 season.

Here are Geno Smith's NFL passing statistics:


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Geno Smith seemed to turn a corner a bit at the tail end of the 2014 season, culminating in a brilliant game to end that season.  Perhaps he could have built on that in 2015.  We'll never know.  One worrisome matter is the all but disappearing deep game the last time Geno was the starter in 2014.  Smith's one shining asset in 2013 was he was very good at deep passing.  That asset vanished in 2014, as the Jets reined in the number of deep throws even as Geno's accuracy on them declined.  Another striking thing that disappeared in Smith's game in 2014 is success in the two minute offense. In 2013 Geno Smith recorded two 4th quarter comeback wins and five game winning drives.  In 2014 the numbers were one 4th quarter comeback and two game winning drives.   It remains to be seen whether Geno can recapture some his 2013 late game magic in 2016.

As a result of Smith's continuing struggles with turnovers, his struggles with pocket awareness, his difficulties in getting the ball out quickly, his inability to perform in the red zone and his inability to execute in the two minute offense, many Jets fans have grown tired of the prospect of yet another year at or near the bottom of the NFL quarterback rankings.  Though the total meltdown of the Jets 2016 offense made Ryan Fitzpatrick's benching all but inevitable, few believe Geno Smith will provide much of an upgrade.  Some are already calling for the Jets to skip over Geno Smith entirely and insert Bryce Petty at quarterback.  That puts Geno Smith squarely in this week's spotlight.  No player on the Jets is more in need of a good game on Sunday than Geno Smith, and no NFL offense is in more dire need of a competent game at quarterback than the Jets.  All eyes will be squarely on Geno Smith as he attempts to turn around both the Jets season and his own career.

This is finally a bit of a breather for the Jets in a very tough stretch.  Not that the Ravens are a pushover, but they are perhaps a step down from the level of competition the Jets have faced of late.  This is an opportunity for Geno Smith to begin a much needed turnaround. This is the time Geno Smith must finally begin to produce at a competent NFL starting quarterback level.  Geno finally has some good targets to throw to.  He has a future Hall Of Fame receiver in Brandon Marshall.  He has an offense more suited to his abilities, an offense that reduces the need for complex reads, which should help Geno.  There are no more excuses.  Now is the time for Geno to put up or shut up.  If Smith can execute the game plan, avoid huge mistakes, get the ball out quickly and run a competent NFL offense, then the Jets might win the game and Geno might start to revive his fading hopes for a career as an NFL starter.  If on the other hand Geno continues to treat the football like a hot potato, if he continues to turn the ball over too much and make mistakes that have you scratching your head, if he fails to ignite the Jets offense and put enough points on the board to give the Jets a fighting chance, then the Jets will lose and Geno's starting career will be hanging by a thread.  These next few games may be Geno's last chance to show he deserves to be a starting quarterback in the NFL.  This is Geno's time in the spotlight.  This is his moment to begin to prove his many critics wrong.  This is his chance to shine.  No more excuses.  Let's see if Geno can shine starting on Sunday afternoon.