New York Jets: Geno Smith in Position to Succeed

Dec 14, 2014; Nashville, TN, USA; New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith (7) greets a fan as he leaves the field after his team defeated the Tennessee Titans 16-11 during the second half at LP Field. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 14, 2014; Nashville, TN, USA; New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith (7) greets a fan as he leaves the field after his team defeated the Tennessee Titans 16-11 during the second half at LP Field. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports /

It’s hard to envision New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith as a decent starter, but he’s in position to succeed with a balanced roster.

New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith celebrates with teammates
Aug 16, 2014; Cincinnati, OH, USA; New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith (7) celebrates with tackle Breno Giacomini (68) after scoring a touchdown during the second quarter against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports /

New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith has been a media piñata over the past year. He deserves partial blame for the ridicule due to an incident with former teammate and current Buffalo Bills linebacker IK Enemkpali over $600.

Once the details leading up to the punch heard around the NFL emerged, Smith’s leadership skills came into question and rightfully so.

Almost a year later, mentioning Smith as the starting quarterback became equivalent to imminent doom for the Jets, which stretches the scenario far beyond the truth.

Related Story: New York Jets: Growing Confidence in Geno Smith

Before the punch that propelled quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick into the starting position, fans and analysts felt Smith’s third year would become his make-or-break season. Is he a starter in this league or not? We never found the definitive answer.

Fitzpatrick tore ligaments in his thumb during the first drive in Week 8 against the Oakland Raiders in the previous season. Under short notice, Smith took the field and threw for 265 yards and two touchdowns with a 64.3 completion percentage. Before Smith threw his only interception in the contest, the Jets were already trailing 21-3.

It’s one game with decent play, but Smith also showed the ability to move the offense downfield with solid offensive weapons. Skeptics often criticized his poor decisions on and off the field, but he showed poise as an emergency starter. No one gives Smith the slightest credit for playing well in an impromptu start, partially due to the losing outcome.

Fitzpatrick took over the huddle at the perfect time when general manager Mike Maccagnan restocked the secondary and added No. 1 wideout Brandon Marshall. The Jets saw a major improvement due to the acquired talent on both sides of the ball. It’s more than just a switch at quarterback.

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As a rookie, Smith didn’t have ample talent around him. His best wideout, Jeremy Kerley, totaled 43 catches for 523 yards and three touchdowns. None of the receivers started more than 12 games.

As a result, head coach Rex Ryan leaned heavily on the ground attack to move the ball. New York ranked No. 5 in rushing attempts and No. 31 in passing touchdowns during the 2013 season.

Despite acquiring wideout Eric Decker, Ryan continued to rely on the backfield in 2014. The team ranked No. 4 in rushing attempts during Smith’s sophomore season. Furthermore, the Jets’ passing defense looked as inept as their passing offense in the previous year. New York ranked No. 30 in passing touchdowns allowed.

An unbalanced roster doesn’t qualify as an excuse for Smith’s mediocre to poor performances, but the current roster has far more talent in its current state.

The fourth-year pro will have two big-body wideouts on the perimeter, something he didn’t have in his first two seasons. The front office acquired running back Matt Forte, who’s a superior receiver out of the backfield.

New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith after throwing a touchdown.
Oct 12, 2014; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith (7) reacts after throwing a touchdown pass against the Denver Broncos during the first quarter of their NFL football game at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports /

Smith won’t have to outscore the opposition in week-to-week score-a-thons due to a respectable defense from top to bottom notwithstanding offseason departures.

It’s hard to justify Fitzpatrick as the better option within the offense without seeing Smith play with the same weapons for an extended period. Just a year ago, Fitzpatrick profiled as a journeyman backup quarterback on his sixth team who would likely retire in one to two years. Now, he’s the Jets’ savior?

Fitzpatrick didn’t become Fitzmagic overnight due to his matured skills. Maccagnan, who won Executive of the Year in 2015, assembled a balanced roster equipped to win without an elite quarterback.

Smith’s critics can’t fathom his potential to produce numbers comparable to Fitzpatrick’s 2015 statistics. They overemphasize the quarterback storyline and ignore the big picture. Fitzpatrick should thank Maccagnan for the supporting cast.

More ny sports: New York Jets: Geno Smith Ready to Seize the Opportunity

The Jets fielded a top-10 defense in yards allowed, two large receiving targets on the perimeter and a bulldozing 1,000-yard running back in 2015. Smith played with backups in starting positions and a lame duck coach over two seasons.

According to ESPN’s Josina Anderson, Smith has worked with Tom House, who’s known as a quarterback guru.

It’s possible the fourth-year signal-caller made necessary strides to establish himself as a starter. Before dismissing Smith as a career backup, who doesn’t belong on the field, it’s best to judge his play in between the white lines and allow him to write the story going forward.