Entering his second year, New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith already has the pressure of having to win. Besides, if he’s calling himself a top-five quarterback, he’s going to have to win not just from September to December, but in January as well.
One step at a time though. Let’s see if he can get to January football first.
The Jets have missed the playoffs for the past three seasons after reaching back-to-back AFC Championship games in 2009 and 2010, highlighted by the infamous “can’t wait” statement by linebacker Bart Scott.
The only thing the Jets “can’t wait” for is to be relevant again and not a laughing stock known for the, also infamous, butt-fumble.
That’s where Smith comes into play.
After leading the Jets to a somewhat surprising 8-8 record this year, he’s looking ahead to leading the Jets to their first winning record since 2010, while also looking back at his competition and mentor, free-agent acquisition Michael Vick. Let it be known, Smith is the Jets starter, period. Vick will tell you that, the Jets receivers will tell you that, just about anyone within the Jets organization will tell you that – except for general manager John Idzik and possibly head coach Rex Ryan.
Michael Vick speaks the truth, saying his job is to push #Jets QB Geno Smith. Sure, he’s competing but… said it’s Geno’s job
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) July 26, 2014
Smith started all 16 games for the Jets last year, replacing Mark Sanchez who was lost for the year in the preseason with a shoulder injury and threw for 3,046 yards with 12 touchdowns and 21 interceptions. He also rushed for 366 yards with six touchdowns.
While Smith had a rocky rookie campaign, he ended the year on a strong note, winning three of his last four, tossing four touchdowns with just two interceptions. However, those wins were against Oakland, Cleveland and Miami, none of whom made the playoffs.
Where Smith struggled in 2013 was against legitimate playoff teams.
Smith was shaky in losses against New England, Cincinnati and Baltimore. He completed just 44 out of 87 of his total passes, throwing seven interceptions. He also went through a five-week stretch without throwing a single touchdown, however added eight interceptions to his total.
According to a recent ESPN ranking of the NFL’s quarterbacks, Smith was ranked 32nd. That’s 32nd of 32 total starting quarterbacks, aka dead last.
But like everyone is saying, that was year one and this is year two and Smith has shown something different about himself entering his sophomore season.
According to NFL.com’s Ian Rappaport, Smith got to work training for the 2014 season just two weeks after the end of the 2013 regular season. He spent a lot of time at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida and began getting to work, going over drills and studying film on the defenses the Jets will face in 2014.
If it counts for anything, the Jets have actually done a great job in handling Geno as well, allowing the now second-year signal-caller to grow and develop without the actual pressure of another quarterback in the wings, meaning that they want him to be their guy. As the Jets have allowed him to grow, he has put in the work.
“He knows he’s put in the work too,” Ryan mentioned. “And that’s the thing about being a quarterback: You got to be a gym rat and have that mentality. And he’s put in the physical work too, changing his body. He’s gotten stronger, cut down the body fat. He wanted to be a better football player, and he attacked it.”
So far in camp, Smith has taken 75 percent of the snaps while Vick has taken just a quarter with the first team. Trust us when we tell you, there’s no real quarterback competition with the Jets, it’s Smith’s job to ultimately lose.
“Yeah, the game is slowing down a ton,” Smith said to the New York Post. “And that’s just a direct effect of studying that film, staying in that film room, staying on my playbook.”
“I just got to keep working at it, keep trusting my guys, keep trusting my coaches and it will take care of itself.”
With a new receiver in Eric Decker and a new running back in Chris Johnson, Smith has the tools around him to succeed in 2014. With four of the Jets first five opponents against non-playoff teams from the year before, Smith can showcase what he’s been working on right out of the gate and possibly get the Jets off to a good start.
The “battle” (if we can even call it that) for the Jets quarterback job is Smith’s to lose in the end. While he’s expected to win it, the ongoing battle to get the Jets back in the playoffs will be, again, Smith’s to lose.
In short, even in his second season, Smith cannot afford to lose.