Ex-NY Jets QB Geno Smith ready for chance at prime time redemption

Geno Smith, New York Jets

Smith, once the future of the New York Jets, has a chance to reclaim the narrative on his NFL career in a new opportunity in Seattle.

No matter what happens during the remainder of his NFL career, Geno Smith will go down as the answer to a trivia question asked by those who cycle through MetLife Stadium’s gates, no matter whether they wear green or blue.

For New York Jets fans, Smith is the last green thrower to toss a perfect game on the gridiron (a 158.3 passer rating) and the only one to do so in the 2010s. In the realms of New York Giants history, he’s the man who ended Eli Manning’s streak of 210 consecutive starts under center.

Smith is finally free from the incessant spotlight of quarterbacking in the metropolitan area, one that has slightly hardened him as he tries to carve out an extended NFL path. While Smith had settled into a backup role in Seattle, a rare injury to Russell Wilson (one expected to keep him out for at least the next three weeks after he was placed on injured reserve) has thrust him back into the gridiron mainstream. His path starts on Sunday night as the Seahawks (2-3) start the process of salvaging their season in prime time against the Pittsburgh Steelers (8:20 p.m. ET, NBC).

The visit to Pittsburgh will be Smith’s first regular season start since his infamously historic single outing as the Giants’ primary man in December 2017. The trust bestowed in Smith to help the Seahawks in their most desperate hour in a long, long time is the highest vote of confidence since former blue head coach Ben McAdoo controversially inserted Smith into the woebegone Giants’ starting lineup once they were among the earliest eliminated from the 2017-18 playoffs. McAdoo did in spite of only Manning’s streak but the prescience of then-rookie Davis Webb, who had been the Giants’ highest selection at quarterback since the instantly-traded Phillip Rivers went fourth overall on a fateful spring afternoon in 2004.

At the time, a respectable performance (21-of-34, 211 yards, a touchdown, and two lost fumbles in a 24-17 to the Oakland Raiders) wasn’t enough to withstand the fury of Giants fans eager to see their Super Bowl hero go out on any semblance of a “right” note. When McAdoo was ousted, one of the Giants’ first moves was to re-establish Manning as the top passer.

McAdoo had a parting gift for Smith upon his firing after the Oakland debacle.

“When Coach Mac was let go and left the building, I talked to him before he left, and he had told me he felt like I deserved to play the rest of the season,” Smith told Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News after his metropolitan departure in 2018. “He believed in me. A lot of people did. Guys wanted me to do well. But there are some things that are out of your control.”

“I’m not going to cry cry over spilled milk over things I can’t control. That’s only going to hinder my success or progress. It just added fuel to fire, made my offseason workouts interesting because I’m working harder. That opportunity was taken away from me for whatever reason, so every time I step on the field or in weight room, that’s my motivation.”

Going into Sunday night’s crucial contest, Smith is slightly more laid back, yet still enthusiastic, as he believes he’s made the most out of the past two-plus seasons through watching Wilson work.

“It’s not like I haven’t been playing football at all. The difference is now, it’s physical reps,” Smith told Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. “I’m getting all the reps. You always take mental reps and prepare that way, but this is about physical preparation as well, more than just the mental side of playing quarterback. This week was different because I’m taking physical reps, as well.”

Sunday’s return to the spotlight is nearly four years in the making: Smith spent a year as Rivers’ backup with the Los Angeles Chargers before settling in Seattle in 2019. Wilson’s durability has made the job of Pacific Northwest understudy a bit of an afterthought: Sunday night will mark the first time since New Year’s Day 2012 that someone other than “Russ” will start under center for the Seahawks (that honor going to the late Tavaris Jackson).

Yet, Smith had shown enough, primarily through his lasting starting endeavors with the Jets, that he could be a reliable contingency plan in case of an emergency. The West Virginia alum, after all, had his fleeting flashes of brilliance of green, including those earned in a prime time setting. For example, the second-round pick threw three touchdowns and engineered a game-winning field goal drive in a Monday night triumph in Atlanta as a rookie in 2013. While ultimately meaningless in the grand scheme of the standings, Smith managed to provide temporary solace to the tumultuous teams of the 2010s, sending Rex Ryan out on the right note with a 37-24 win over Miami.

Seattle was partly rewarded when Smith allowed them to keep pace in yet another nationally televised instance: as the Seahawks struggled to keep pace with the mighty Los Angeles Rams, the departure of Wilson could’ve been damning.

Instead, Smith rose to the occasion, keeping the increasingly desperate Seahawks in the game through a 131-yard performance that yielded 10 points over his first two drives in the fourth quarter. The affair ended in heartbreak…Smith was forced into a Nick Scott interception when intended receiver Tyler Lockett fell down on a route…but it was enough to keep the faith amongst Seattle brass.

“If Geno is going to play for us some as Russ comes back, you know, he showed that we’re in good hands,” Carroll said in the LA aftermath, per Liz Mathews of Yahoo! Sports. “I was just proud for him and the fact that he hung with us all this time and believed in being part of this program. Then when he got his chance, he did really. That was pretty good.”

“I went right to Geno afterwards and said, you been waiting a long time for your opportunity,” Carroll told reporters. “The faith you’ve shown in our program and us to stay with us, so proud that when he got in there, he did great. He really looked good. He’s been working for that. He’s a talented football player.”

Smith now gets to prove such acument on a long-term basis. The opportunity provided in Seattle affords him a rare chance as a high-profile washout (a status granted through factors partly beyond his control) to reclaim the narrative on his NFL career and perhaps get back on the radars of teams searching for starters.

But Smith appears to be embracing this chance with a sense of healthy abandon, one set to savor every moment of this comeback.

“I’m fresh, I feel like I’m 21 years old. I’m ready!” Smith said during Pittsburgh prep, per Rapoport. “The moment is what it is. We have a Sunday night game in Pittsburgh. It’s one night, not the rest of my life. Mostly, it’s a game I love to play, a game that I’m passionate about. It’s one that I prepare for and am ready for whether I get to play or not. It’s not a chance to showcase anything, that’s how I see it. I’m not going to change my stripes. I’m just looking forward to playing football.”

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Giants: Jason Garrett A Major Upgrade At Offensive Coordinator In 2020

New York Giants, Jason Garrett

The New York Giants are entering the 2020 NFL season with a new coaching staff. Pat Shurmur was fired from the position after two disappointing seasons with Big Blue. His replacement, Joe Judge, has quickly won over the fanbase with a commanding introductory press conference and the hiring of an excellent and experienced coaching staff.

Joe Judge hired multiple former head coaches as assistants on his coaching staff. The biggest name of all was Jason Garrett, former the Dallas Cowboys head coach from 2010-2019. Garrett was hired to serve as the Giants’ new offensive coordinator, replacing Mike Shula who held the position since 2018.

Mike Shula was always an interesting hiring for the New York Giants. He was not the team’s first choice at offensive coordinator- that was Kevin Stefanski, who is now the head coach of the Cleveland Browns. However, once the Vikings denied permission for the Giants to interview Stefanski, the team shifted focus and went with Shula instead.

Shula had some familiarity with Dave Gettleman from Carolina. He was a member of the Panthers’ coaching staff from 2011 to 2017. Shula’s offensive scheme helped quarterback Cam Newton reach MVP status en route to a Super Bowl appearance in 2015. In New York, though, Shula was not running his own scheme, rather, he was helping Pat Shurmur run his scheme.

A Different Coaching Philosophy

One of the biggest differences for the Giants in 2020 will be the fundamental change in coaching philosophy. Under the last two head coaches, McAdoo and Shurmur, the Giants’ offensive coordinators were far less involved on Sundays. Both Shurmur and McAdoo called plays for the Giants, quite unsuccessfully. Both offensive schemes were criticized for being predictable and inefficient.

Perhaps the most detrimental aspect of having the head coaches call plays was their lack of situational awareness. Quite often, both coaches would forget to call timeouts or call them at unfavorable moments. McAdoo and Shurmur had poor clock management skills that many attribute to the two coaches being too wrapped up in playcalling.

The Giants will not have that issue anymore as they welcome in a new philosophy. Now, the offensive coordinator will run the offense and call plays while the head coach oversees the entirety of the team. Luckily for New York, they secured one of the NFL’s brightest offensive minds in the league with Jason Garrett.

Jason Garrett As An Offensive Coordinator

During his long tenure with the Dallas Cowboys, Jason Garrett always had one of the league’s top offenses:

“With Garret calling plays, the Cowboys passing offense was never ranked lower than 9th in yards per game or 11th in yards per play, including two top five finishes in both categories. The rushing offense was top ten in yards per play four times.” –via Giants.com

Now with an offensive coordinator dedicating his attention strictly towards the offense, the Giants could see more consistency out of its scoring unit.

New York Giants: McAdoo Named Biggest Scapegoat… But Is It True?

The New York Giants have a lot of people to blame for their losses during the past decade, so it may be hard to name their biggest scapegoat of the 2010s. But Bleacher Report attempted to name each team’s biggest scapegoat around the league, and of course, the Giants were one of the 32 teams on that list. The name that was listed for the Giants may be somewhat surprising to Giants fans that are still very familiar with this specific coach’s tenure: Ben McAdoo.

McAdoo proceeded Pat Shurmur, and in the eyes of many, is the worst coach between the two. While Shurmur moved on to become an offensive coordinator again quickly after his stint with the Giants, McAdoo took longer to find a job again and is currently the quarterbacks coach of the Jaguars, a lower ranking position.

McAdoo coached the Giants to a 2-10 record before being fired in 2017. Along the way, he benched longtime starting quarterback Eli Manning—in a thinly veiled attempt to spark change and save his job.

“At the time, we were 2-9, beat up, and I told Eli we wanted to see the other quarterbacks on the roster—including our promising rookie, Davis Webb,” McAdoo wrote in Peter King’s inaugural Football Morning in America column.

Instead of Webb, though, McAdoo gave the start to Geno Smith, signaling to fans that the quarterback change wasn’t about the future of the position. That decision, by the way, ended Manning’s consecutive starts streak at 210.

It’s arguable, though, whether or not McAdoo is a true scapegoat. Usually, a scapegoat is a figure who receives most of the blame despite others being significantly at fault too. McAdoo, however, was legitimately one of the worst parts of the Giants franchise when he was the head coach. He lost the locker room quicker than Shurmur did and left with fewer redeeming narratives than Shurmur, with most considering his hiring to be one of the largest mistakes in recent franchise history.

The Giants have had a number of players and other figures over the past ten years who have also received plenty of blame, and some of them perhaps make more sense as scapegoats. Players such as Odell Beckham Jr., Landon Collins, and Damon Harrison have received a fair amount of criticism for their attitudes despite performing well on the field for the most part, but the Giants haven’t quite bounced back ever since getting rid of them. In fact, the entire 2016 Giants team that went to the playoffs could easily be considered a scapegoat.

Head coach Tom Coughlin could also be considered one – not necessarily by the fans, but for the organization itself. The Giants rushed Coughlin out to move on to McAdoo, but of course, that decision will be remembered forever as a misstep rather than a stroke of genius. The team would have likely dropped off whether Coughlin was kept or not, but the decline of the Giants was accelerated by bad coaching which also saw the team implode in 2017 during a season where they returned a decent amount of talent from their 2016 playoff team.

Momentum is important in the NFL, and if the team was under good leadership, it’s possible they could have reloaded after 2017 rather than being forced into the rebuilding process that’s still going on right now.

All in all, it’s easy to call McAdoo a scapegoat because of the amount of hate he’s gotten from the fans – but McAdoo did take a team that wasn’t yet fully on the rebuilding path and contribute to a 2017 performance that was bad enough to be shocking to much of the fanbase when it was first happening. Was everything McAdoo’s fault? No, but on the other hand, before calling him the team’s biggest scapegoat, it’s worth looking at others who gave more to the team and still ultimately found themselves taking blame for its fall.

New York Giants: Shurmur Has Defenders, But So Did McAdoo

New York Giants, Pat Shurmur

The decision for the New York Giants to fire Pat Shurmur, if the team owners decide to go that route, won’t be completely without controversy.

Sure, most of the fans are over Shurmur after lackluster coaching has taken the Giants out of a number of games and caused blown leads in others, and little improvement between seasons for a roster which was supposed to get better with new additions being brought on in the offseason, but the players haven’t quite turned on Shurmur.

Not yet, anyway. Neither Daniel Jones or Saquon Barkley want to see Shurmur shown the door just yet, at least – two of the most notable voices for the Giants right now thanks to their status as the team’s top offensive players.

“I think he’s a great coach. How he’s coached me has been very important for my development, so I am very grateful to have the opportunity to work with him,” Jones told reporters. “I’ve really enjoyed working with coach Shurmur and I think he’s done a whole lot for my development and my growth. He’s been great for me.”

But for anyone thinking that this might play into whether or not the Giants should keep Shurmur or not, it’s worth looking into the circumstances around the Giants firing their last coach, also.

Having players come out and defend a coach says more about the coach’s locker room popularity than it does about their actual skill on the field. Because while Shurmur’s predecessor, Ben McAdoo, also had defenders in the locker room when there was plenty of negativity around him, his actual coaching was just as bad as what we’re seeing right now, or worse.

And yet, when there were anonymous complaints, the locker room stood up and defended their coach.

McAdoo still ended up losing the locker room that very season and was fired, bringing about the Shurmur era. Is that to say that the Giants should disregard their players and not take their wishes into account when making a decision on whether or not to fire Shurmur after the season?

No, but the difference between coaching skill and coach popularity has to be recognized.

Sure, Saquon Barkley and Daniel Jones don’t want to see Shurmur fired. But that’s one of the main reasons why players are paid to play and executives are paid to make decisions from the top – sometimes, the right decisions are tough ones, and need to be made even when they aren’t popular with every star.

Who Utilized Giants’ Odell Beckham Jr. Better: Ben McAdoo Or Pat Shurmur?

The New York Giants’ offense has taken steps forward since the 2017 season. Ironically enough it would be even better if Pat Shurmur and Mike Shula would continue to use Odell Beckham Jr. similar to the way Ben McAdoo used him.

Odell Beckham Jr.’s numbers under Ben McAdoo:

There wasn’t a whole lot Ben McAdoo did right, but he knew how to get the ball to his most dangerous weapon. McAdoo coached Odell for 4 seasons. In the first 2 seasons, he caught a total of 25 touchdown passes. During his third season, he caught 10 touchdown passes. In his fourth season, Odell only played in 4 games and still had 3 touchdown receptions. One of Odell’s elite traits was scoring in nearly every game he played in, at one point he had an impressive 38 touchdowns in 45 games played.

In seasons with at least 12 games played he’s always had at least 90 receptions with over 1,200 yards. He is on pace to reach both of those numbers again in 2018 but with just a few impactful differences.

Odell Beckham Jr.’s numbers under Pat Shurmur and Mike Shula:

The Giants are still getting plenty of receptions and yards from their star receiver. The star receiver is  already over 1,000 yards and has 77 receptions through 12 games. He’s catching 62.1 % of his targets which is his best catch-rate since his rookie season. He’s even averaging more yards per game in 2018 than he did in the 2016 season when the Giants team went to the playoffs. Pat Shurmur and Mike Shula have come up with some good ways to use Odell Beckham Jr. and they’ve even gotten a couple of touchdown passes out of him, but he needs to get back to scoring as a receiver. Odell was averaging nearly a touchdown per game for 4 seasons before the new regime took over, his 6 touchdowns in 12 games aren’t nearly the same rate he had for 4 seasons under Ben McAdoo.

What did Ben McAdoo do differently?

Some might say Odell isn’t scoring due to a new system, but he caught a touchdown in his very first NFL game. He followed up with 11 more touchdowns in the last 11 games of his rookie season. The main reason is quite simple, he’s not being targeted enough in the red zone. This is actually the first year in Odell’s career that he hasn’t been the most targeted Giant in the red zone through 12 games. That exciting signature play of taking a slant to the house has completely disappeared under the new regime. In 4 seasons Ben McAdoo was able to generate 7 touchdowns from slant routes alone. In 2018 Odell hasn’t scored a single touchdown on a slant route. While it sounds nit-picky to ask for a couple more touchdowns this team has lost 6 games by one possession.

If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.

Sometimes a new coaching staff needs to keep certain things in place that consistently worked for a team. Odell’s high touchdown totals have only helped lead to the playoffs once before, but in a year of 6 losses by one possession a couple more touchdowns could’ve drastically changed the season.

New York Giants: Ben McAdoo At Peace With Benching Eli Manning

No explanation is going to make Giants’ fans happy about the way Ben McAdoo benched Eli Manning last season, but the former head coach revealed in Peter King’s column that he is “at peace” with the decision. The main focal point of the piece, however, wasn’t on Manning’s benching. Rather, it was about what McAdoo learned during his time with the team.

The first thing he mentioned was his need to handle players better, particularly Odell Beckham Jr. McAdoo was criticized by many for his perceived emotional distance, and partially acknowledged that he needed to be more than an Xs and Os style coach when it came to Beckham.

“I should have seen my job with Odell was more than simply X’s and O’s; it was also helping Odell the person. He is not only a generational talent, but also bright and well-read, and I let him down early in his career. I will not make that mistake again,” one of the first parts of the column reads.

He also addressed his press conferences, which became notorious for not having much useful information at all. He admitted that his philosophy towards media needs to be overhauled, and stated “To me, press conferences became the only thing where I was not in it to win it; I just wanted them to be over.”

The part of the column that is the most talked about is the section about Eli Manning’s benching. “My bedside manner hurt me that week. I’m working on that… But if there’s one thing I want fans of the Giants to know, it’s that I made this call to try to make the Giants stronger for the future,” McAdoo said. According to him, he was doing the right thing for the right reasons.

Most Giants fans though, will disagree with that statement. Manning wasn’t benched for the rookie Davis Webb, but for Geno Smith, who isn’t taken seriously as a potential starting quarterback. The Giants didn’t gain much for the future by benching manning, and if they did, it was outweighed by the morale impact that it had for the fanbase.

It was a bad season at that point. And while McAdoo is correct in his statement that there’s no easy way to make tough decisions, the decision to end Manning’s streak only deflated the mood around the team even more. Still, it’s interesting to hear McAdoo’s own explanation of what went down, after much speculation went on about the reasoning behind his decision. See his full words for yourself here, and see what you think.

Ben McAdoo Takes Massive Shot At Giants’ LT Nate Solder

It’s one thing to say a player needs to work on his craft, but it’s another to say they’re plain bad. Former New York Giants head coach, Ben McAdoo, made the expected mistake of taking a shot at a new player.

Left tackle Nate Solder, a player who has fought through cancer and didn’t let up a sack after week two in 2017, was put down by McAdoo, the coach who was fired for making every wrong decision possible.

According to the NY Post:

“Getting a left tackle in there will help them in a lot of ways,” said McAdoo. “I don’t think (Solder’s) a very good player, but I think it will help them in a lot of ways where they needed help in that room in the past and they haven’t had anyone to do that.”

Wait a second… Solder isn’t a very good player but he’s going to help them in ways that nobody else could? That sounds about right coming from good ole McAdoo.

Ben didn’t stop there, as he continued on to Ereck Flowers, who struggled at left tackle for the Giants during the former coach’s reign. He proceeded to break down why Flowers is so porous at tackle and why switching to the right won’t make a difference.

“(Flowers) can’t bend, you got to be able to bend,” said McAdoo. “You can run around him on (the right side) just like you can on the other side, Eli just gets to see it, which may help Eli. It’s not the blind side, it’s in his vision, so if he’s comfortable with what’s going on over on the left side, it can help him move in the pocket a little bit better.”

New York Giants: The Biggest Difference Between Ben McAdoo And Pat Shurmur

Ben McApoo, Ben McAdoodoo, Ben McAwhy?! I think that’s my favorite one, because during every New York Giants game last year, I screamed “WHY” after McAcrap ran the ball on third and seven.

No more my fellow brethren, the Giants have turned over a new leaf, and head coach Pat Shurmur is bringing a revolution to New York with every passing day.

But what makes the two coaches so different? And what’s the main aspect about Shurmur’s style that really puts him on another level?

Well, let’s consider the comparison between how the two coaches treat their players and how they go about developing them. McAdoo took the approach of, they will not get any good or bad media feedback from me, and I will not take the blame for any mistakes made on the field. In term of development, the former coach would predict starters well before they earned the right and would often times make himself look like an ignorant fool.

CAN’T MISS: Why Odell Beckham Jr. is primed to have his best season yet in 2018

Shurmur on the other hand forces his players to abide by the rules and ‘prove’ that they are capable of playing at a high-level before being awarded the starting job. Let’s take rookie offensive guard Will Hernandez for example. While it was expected that Hernandez would claim the left/right guard spot right out of college, Shurmur has made it apparent that he must earn it first. Since the start of OTAs, Hernandez has alternated with Patrick Omameh and John Greco out of the guard spot, as the coaching staff begins to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of each player.

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Overall, the most influential difference between the two coaches is ‘reality’. While McAdoo lived in a world where Paul Perkins was assumed the starter before proving himself beyond two meaningful games, Shurmur is establishing trust and expectations for his players. He’s living in the real world where players must prove their worth on the practice field before receiving an opportunity on game-day.