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

Former New York Jets QB Geno Smith torches Rex Ryan after belittlement

Geno Smith, New York Jets

The New York Jets need to leave the past in the past, and Rex Ryan can’t hold back from attacking his former players.

Six years ago feels like a long time ago, but for former New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith and head coach Rex Ryan, it must feel like yesterday. Having participated on the same team, you’d think they would have mutual respect for one another; however, that’s not the case.

Ryan belittled Smith on ESPN’s “First Take” Wednesday, stating that he would be a coaching legend if he had a quarterback like Tom Brady on his team, continuing to thrash Smith in the process.

“[Patriots head coach] Bill Belichick is the greatest of all time,” Ryan said. “Let’s give him Geno Smith, whoever, see how many Super Bowls he would’ve won. He never won in Cleveland [where Belichick was fired in the early 1990s after five seasons].

Knowing Smith and his social media presence, he didn’t hold back from attacking Ryan, the snake.

“My momma never liked dude he been a snake… and y’all glorify it…,” Smith tweeted in response. “Should’ve got fired after (year one).. truth is we won 8 games [in 2013] after ESPN had us winning two and he got his job back… somehow I’m caught up in a feud and I’m the scapegoat.. Same guy that drafted me. #TheBusiness.”

The reality of the NFL is much more political than most would like to admit. Smith was used to justifying keeping Ryan, who ultimately was fired and ended up with the Buffalo Bills for two seasons — ever since, he has made it a habit to steamroll players from the past, blaming them for his deficiencies.

Former Jets members have been expressing their displeasure over the past in recent days, as Chris Johnson posted on Twitter is regret for joining Gang Green on a three-year, $9 million deal. Hopefully, the past can remain as so in the future, as Gang Green must avoid any more conflict moving forward. With a strong defense and developing offense, there’s hope they can finally put the harmful stigmas behind them in 2020.

10 New York Jets “Opening Day” Memories

Baseball’s opening day has sadly gone by the wayside, but, hopefully, these New York Jets gems at least partially soothes the ache. 

Opening day festivities in baseball were, alas, not to be. America’s Pastime’s national holiday was given the worst kind of rain delay, indefinitely put on hold until the COVID-19 pandemic is controlled.

We here at ESM’s New York Jets department sympathize with our Yankee/Met brothers and sisters. To help with the baseball blues, we present the Jets’ finest “Opening Day”…or, in this case, Week 1, memories….

1960: Titanic Conquest

The New York Jets’ franchise wasn’t always one of doom and gloom. In fact, their tenure began on the highest of notes, crushing their new American Football League brethren, the Buffalo Bills, by a 27-3 final under their New York Titans moniker at the Polo Grounds.

Buffalo took an early 3-0 lead, but the Titans stormed back with 27 unanswered. Two scores came from the feet of quarterback Al Dorow, while Dick Jamieson found Art Powell for the first aerial score in team history. On defense, the Jets let up only 113 yards and just five combined completions between a pair of Buffalo throwers.

1991: Defensive Struggle, or Anything But

The defensive struggle is a dying art in today’s NFL, but the Jets have managed to come out on the right side of some good ones. One such tilt was their 1991 opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where both Ken O’Brien and Vinny Testaverde had trouble gaining traction. Pat Leahy was the Jets’ biggest contributor on the scoreboard, compiling 10 of the team’s 16 points on the afternoon. His boots, including the de facto game-winner in the penultimate minute, allowed Leahy to move up to sixth on the NFL’s all-time scoring list.

1994: The Bill Stops Here

By 1994, the Bills had been to four consecutive Super Bowls but came up short each time. Some felt a fifth time would finally be the charm, but the Jets hastened the decline of Buffalo at the onset of the 1994 season.

The Pete Carroll era began at Rich Stadium, where the Jets stunned the home crowd with a one-sided 23-3 victory. A pair of second-quarter rushing touchdowns from Richie Anderson and Johnny Johnson erased an early Buffalo lead, while Nick Lowry held off any resistance with three field goals. Jim Kelly was brought down four times on the afternoon, twice by Marvin Washington. The Jets had lost 12 of their prior 13 matchups with the mighty Bills, but the 1994 opener paved the way for a sweep, their first in the series since 1986.

1997: Neil the Power

The Jets were in desperate need of good vibes in August 1997. They had gone 4-28 in Rich Kotite’s disastrous two years at the helm and nursing a streak of eight seasons without a winning record. Former New York football hero Bill Parcells was brought in to drag the team out of dire straights. For at least one weekend, happy times were finally green again.

Visiting Seattle’s Kingdome, the Jets demolished the Seahawks in a 41-3 shellacking. The cause was led by Neil O’Donnell’s career day, as the costly veteran put up a career-high five touchdowns. Wayne Chrebet and Jeff Graham each earned a pair of that tally, while Kyle Brady added the outlier. Defensive, the Jets harassed Seattle tandem John Friesz and Warren Moon, allowing them only 168 yards on 17 completions combined.

2000: Oh, Groh Up

The Jets got the new century off to a good start, as the Jets battled their future single-season thrower Brett Favre in a thriller at Lambeau Field. Despite the defense’s best efforts in holding an injured Favre in check (14-of-34, 152 yards, one touchdown), the Green Bay Packers kept pace with the Jets, even holding a 16-13 lead in the latter stages of the fourth quarter.

After a Ryan Longwell field goal broke a 13-13 deadlock, the Jets got a major boost via a 61-yard connection between Testaverde and Dedric Ward that situated them three yards away from the end zone. It took three downs to pull off the final three, but Testaverde eventually found Curtis Martin for a three-yard score that gave the Jets what they needed. It the final touches on a 144-total yard, two-touchdown performance that got the 2000s rolling. Favre, true to form, nearly pulled off a gunslinging, game-winning drive, but a potential long touchdown pass to Bill Schroeder instead landed in the arms of New York cornerback Victor Green.

2002: Buffalo Thrills

The Jets opened the 2002 season against a familiar foe in unusual colors: Drew Bledsoe. Tom Brady’s emergence the year prior put Bledsoe in a Buffalo Bills uniform, and his first game was a back and forth thriller against the Jets. Buffalo jumped out to an early 10-0 lead, but the Jets moseyed on back into the game with Chad Morton’s 98-yard touchdown. Despite major problems in the run game (Travis Henry torched the Jets for 149 yards and three scores and Curtis Martin left the game with an injury), the Jets kept pace with Buffalo and took a 31-24 lead via a Wayne Chrebet touchdown pass. Bledsoe, however, forced overtime with a scoring strike to Eric Moulds with 26 seconds to go in regulation.

Morton’s special team heroics, however, created the shortest overtime in NFL history. The veteran returned needed only 14 seconds to go 96 yards, allowing the Jets to escape Orchard Park with a 37-31 win.

2009: Making His Mark

A star was born in 2009, but Lady Gaga was nowhere to be found.

That’s what the cover of the New York Daily News declared after Mark Sanchez earned a victory in his first start, completing 18-of-31 passes for 272 yards and a touchdown in Gang Green’s 24-7 win over the Houston Texans. His first touchdown pass was a 30-yard strike to Chansi Stuckey in the second quarter. Sanchez got the credit, but the defense might’ve been the real heroes at Reliant Stadium. Defenders held the Texans to 183 yards and 11 first downs in triumph, allowing no points as Houston’s only score came on a fumble return for a touchdown.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BuxHBexnoxE

2011: That’s All, Folk

The 2011 campaign began on an emotional note, as the NFL’s opening weekend coincided with the 10th anniversary of September 11’s tragic events. Many prominent names who helped the country recover were in attendance, including first-responders from the NYPD and FDNY. Former US President George W. Bush helped oversee the opening coin flip.

On the field, the game situated the Ryan brothers, with Rex coaching the Jets and Rob manning the Cowboys’ defense. Dallas led 24-10 at the onset of the fourth quarter, but the Jets inched back into the game with a 26-yard touchdown pass from Sanchez to Plaxico Burress. The Jets failed to capitalize on a Tony Romo fumble forced by Mike Devito, but eventually tied the game when Isaiah Trufant took a punt blocked by Joe McKnight back for a score. Dallas’ would-be game-winning drive stalled when Darrelle Revis intercepted a pass intended for Dez Bryant. Former Cowboy Nick Folk put the finishing touches on a moving, booting a 50-yard field goal in the final minute to secure a 27-24 win.

2013: LD!

We’re used to seeing someone with the shortened name of “L. David” make bumbling mistakes on Sundays thanks to Curb Your Enthusiasm. This time, however, an HBO subscription wasn’t necessary.

Geno Smith’s Jets debut was a sloppy back-and-forth tilt with the Buccaneers. Smith managed the game well enough to earn the Jets a 15-14 lead in the latter stages of the fourth quarter. However, a 37-yard hookup between Josh Freeman and Vincent Jackson inside the two-minute warning situated the Buccaneers in Rian Lindell’s field goal range, putting them up 17-15 with 34 seconds to go. With 15 seconds to go and the Jets approaching midfield, Smith successfully scurried out of bounds to preserve what little time was left. However, he gained some assistance from Tampa linebacker Lavonte David, whose late hit on Smith earned the Jets 15 free yards. That allowed Folk to drill the winner from 48-yards out, giving New York an 18-17 win.

2018: Hey, Darnold!

Sam Darnold’s precise Jets debut drew the tired chorus of “same old Jets” at Ford Field. His first NFL play ended in a touchdown, albeit in the most horrifying way possible. An interception to Quandre Diggs went back 37 yards for an early Detroit Lions lead. Fortunately for the Jets, Darnold would make up for it with a 41-yard score to Robby Anderson, part of a back-and-forth barrage that situated the game at a 17-17 standstill early in the third quarter.

New York took over from there on out, causing ED-209 levels of damage to the Lions’ defense in the form of 31 unanswered points. Darnold contributed to the cause with the first part of the carnage, a 21-yard strike to Quincy Enunwa that gave the Jets the lead for good. Notably, Jamal Adams earned his first NFL interception, while Darron Lee took another Matthew Stafford miscue back 36 yards for a touchdown, one of two “receptions” for Lee on the evening.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

New York Giants: How Will John Mara Handle the Manning to Jones Change?

The New York Giants are embarking on an inevitable QB controversy whether they like it or not. John Mara is going to have the final say on the transfer of guard from Manning to Jones and he must get it right this time around.

Let’s flashback to the 2017 NFL Season when the Giants ended Eli Manning’s 13 seasons, 210 consecutive start streak in favor of Geno Smith. The team was eliminated from the playoffs and were playing a meaningless game against a sub-par .500 raiders team.

Heading towards a high draft pick with a 2-9 record, it made sense for the team to see what they had in rookie QB Davis Webb, right? Wrong. The team is a classless move decided its best action was to bench the best QB in franchise history for a player that already had shown he is nothing more than a backup in the NFL.

Fast forward to today and a similar situation is developing in John Mara’s hands. The difference is the newly drafted QB is a #6th overall pick who begs the question of not if but when he will take over the reins from Eli Manning?

Pat Shurmur has reiterated throughout the offseason on playing the best QB and making sure Daniel Jones is ready to play week 1. John Mara came out on Tuesday and similarly talked to reporters reassuring everyone who the Giants starting QB is.

“I hope Eli has a great year and Daniel never sees the field,” Mara told reporters at the Giants training facility (CBS Sports).

Here is the question the Giants coaching staff along with ownership must ask themselves during the regular season:

Is Eli Manning holding back the Giant’s offense?

Regardless of the New York Giants record, the team has to play the QB that gives them the best chance to win. This motto has been what Pat Shurmur has told the media over and over again foreshadowing a potential change if needed.

Teams in the past have been able to move on from their franchise QB leaving emotion out of the decision. Look at Brett Favre and the Packers, Peyton Manning with the Colts. Not to mention these two players were statistically better with their first teams than Eli Manning has been in his career with the Giants. The Giants cannot hesitate to make a change if Manning starts to struggle with the future of their franchise sitting on the bench.

John Mara understands all that Eli Manning has done for the Giants. A two time Super Bowl champion is hard to move on from. However, when the time is right he must sign off on a QB change.

For Eli’s sake, hopefully, he plays 16 games and Jones doesn’t see the field.