EAST RUTHERFORD – The past year of Geno Smith’s football career has been full of roadblocks. In August of 2015, the infamous ‘punch in the jaw’ that occurred during training camp knocked the former WVU standout out of the starting QB role for the New York Jets, a team that drafted him in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft.
After spending most of the season on the sideline in recovery mode, Smith was hopeful that he would return for 2016 training camp as the frontrunner for the job. However, head coach Todd Bowles opted to stick with 12-year veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick – who led the team to a 10-6 record just short of a playoff run in Smith’s absence – upon reaching a late $12 million deal to bring him back for one more year.
That decision hasn’t proven successful. Through six games, the Jets are in last place in the AFC East with a 1-5 record, while Fitzpatrick leads the NFL in interceptions with 11.
Is there any way for New York to salvage the season? Is there any way for Smith to salvage his professional career?
Exit, Ryan Fitzpatrick. Enter, Geno Smith.
Last Sunday, during the Jets matchup with the Arizona Cardinals, Bowles elected to pull Fitzpatrick in the fourth quarter, leading to Smith’s first action of the season. Smith orchestrated one drive, in which he completed four of six passes for 31 yards, had one fumble (which was recovered by the Jets) and tossed one interception.
Although Smith’s late game appearance couldn’t save the sinking ship and the Jets faltered 28-3, Bowles did see promise in the fourth-season QB.
“He did show some promise when he was in there,” Bowles said during his post-game press conference. “He understood the game plan. He did good for the drive he was in there.”
Was it enough to earn a second chance? As of Sunday night, Bowles hinted that Fitzpatrick would be back at the helm the following week. But as of Tuesday afternoon, it was “Geno Time” once again.
After waiting and working for more than a year to get back into the role, Geno Smith has been named the starting QB for Sunday’s matchup against the Baltimore Ravens.
“As a competitor, I want to play,” Smith said following the Arizona game. “I can’t reiterate that enough. It’s not about me. It never has been. We’re 1-5 and we’ve gotta pull ourselves out of a hole.”
This will be Smith’s first start since December of 2014.
“I felt like it was time for a change,” Bowles said in today’s post-practice press conference. “Geno’s our starter. Ryan’s the No. 2 . . . We’ll see how things go down the line. He has an opportunity to do some things that he’s been denied for a year and a half so we’ll see if he can do it.”
Throughout his NFL career, Smith has played in 32 games, completing 497 of 858 passes with 27 touchdowns and 36 interceptions.
It’s more evident now than ever that he’s ready for redemption.
“I’m going to be ready whenever my number is called,” Smith said. “That’s just the way that I roll. I prepare hard, I work as if I’m the starter, and whenever I get my chance, whenever that is, I go out there and I do my best.”
Cover Image Credit: Ric Tapio/The Photo Brigade