Despite another uninspiring performance, New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith has no shortage of apologists, and they only seem to become louder and more irrational in their defense of the man whenever anyone tries to step outside the world of illusion. What is surprising about this is that before he was drafted there were plenty of warnings from the “experts” that Smith was a compromising pick. Remember that Smith had been an early Heisman favorite before observers realized that he was more surface than substance; playing from the shotgun on virtually every play, Smith rarely passed the ball five yards beyond the line of scrimmage. But this paled in comparison to what was discerned above his shoulders. Take the following commentary:
"His biggest problem is that he doesn't know what he doesn't know. I’m not sure he knows how to take instruction because he pretty much wouldn't listen or talk to our coaches … he's talented. He can sling it, he can fit it into tight spots, he can do a lot of things and I think he wants to be good. But you can't tell him anything right now. He's tuned out because he thinks he's got it all down."
“Smith's behavior before, during and after the draft has raised questions about his maturity, according to NFL talent evaluators.”
“At least one quarterback-needy team in the top 10 passed on him because of the diva attitude he displayed in a pre-draft visit, according to a league source.”
“He's going to have a tough time in New York. Right now, he's coming off as a spoiled, pampered brat.”
“In the NFL, a team visit is akin to a job interview. An aloof prospect is a major turnoff.”
“Not a student of the game.”
“He doesn’t have much presence, not much of a leader. I don’t think he’s a bad person, but that’s not enough to be a quarterback in this league.”
Not only did the Jets not listen, but it seems that many sports commentators have taken criticism of Smith personally—particularly those who had no such qualms about demeaning Mark Sanchez on a regular basis. I thought it would be interesting to compare the two through their first 20 starts:
Sanchez: Won-Loss record, 12-8; 72.6 passer rating; 277 of 501 passing; 3346 yards passing; 20 TD passes; 20 interceptions; 4 lost fumbles.
Smith: Won-Loss record, 9-11; 68.5 passer rating; 329 of 579 passing; 3968 yards passing; 16 TD passes; 26 interceptions; 6 lost fumbles.
Has Smith been an “improvement” over Sanchez? There is no shortage of commentators who “explain” Smith by claiming he has no “weapons,” rather than admitting to his poor decision-making. Are they talking about Dustin Keller, Jerricho Cotchery, Jeff Cumberland, Jeremy Kerley and Santonio Holmes? Those names sure have a familiar ring to them. This season, the Jets acquired a talented young receiver in Eric Decker and got rid of unproductive head case Holmes. Oh, but Sanchez had Braylon Edwards—who in 2008 with Cleveland caught 40 percent of the passes in which he was targeted. Hell, Brett Favre--remember him?--had to work with the no-names on that list, to only slightly better result.
Oh, but the Jets had a better running game back then. But the Jets running was then—as it is now—reliant on past-their-prime players. In 2011, the Jets averaged 105 yards a game rushing, and barely improved in 2012. But last season, the Jets averaged 140 yards-per-game rushing, and thus far this season 150 yards per game. Well, what about the offensive line? You mean the one that allowed a team record 11 sacks in one game endured by his backup when Sanchez was benched in 2012?
It seems to me that those who are defending Smith out of all proportion and common sense are doing so for political or personal reasons. Jets fans who “cursed” Smith after the loss to the Lions have as much right to be angry at his media apologists as much at his mediocrity.