Ten games is a relatively small sample size to judge how Geno Smith’s NFL career is going to play out. But if Smith has a few more outings over the final weeks of the season like he has had of late, it would be hard to imagine him returning as starting quarterback next year.
Heading into the season, the starting job appeared to belong to Mark Sanchez until he injured his shoulder. Smith likely would’ve been better served sitting on the bench and learning before taking over, but unfortunately things don’t always go as planned.
While rookie mistakes are going to happen to even the most promising prospect, it’s a bit alarming how many blunders Smith continues to commit as the season progresses. Two of Smith’s last three games have resulted in him being benched in favor of backup Matt Simms.
In what appeared to be his coming out party in early October, Smith completed a career-best 80-percent of his passes, and threw for three touchdowns and zero interceptions during a win on Monday Night Football over the Atlanta Falcons.
In the five games since, Smith has thrown eight interceptions and just one touchdown.
After completing a career-low 42.1-percent of his passes in Week Nine, Smith followed that game up with an abysmal new low of 34.7 this past Sunday against the Buffalo Bills.
ESPN’s Total Quarterback Rating is by no means a perfect statistic, but it paints a decent enough picture of how good or bad of a game a quarterback has had. The advanced metric incorporates a host of factors in an attempt to accurately grade a quarterback’s performance on a scale of zero-100.
Smith’s 0.7 Total QBR in last week’s blowout loss to the Bills was the lowest for a quarterback in a game this season. Since the win over the Falcons, Smith has recorded an NFL-low 10.6 QBR.
One thing that statistics fail to measure are intangibles. To his credit, Smith appears even-keeled regardless of the situation and has remained accountable for his mistakes in post-game press conferences. Smith’s apologies seem to be sincere, but it gets a bit tiresome.
Just once, it would be nice for Smith to show some emotion or see a bit of fire in his eyes. That’s not to say he doesn’t have it in him or he’s incapable of being a leader, but Smith is yet to show that he has that sort of passion bottled up inside.
As bad as Smith has been at times, he hasn’t had a lot of help from his teammates.
The offensive line has struggled to protect him, giving up 34 sacks on the season. Fellow rookie Brian Winters has been a turnstile in allowing defenders a shot at the quarterback, yet he can still be considered an upgrade since he replaced guard Vlad Ducasse.
Smith’s passing targets have fluctuated in and out of the lineup as well, rarely giving him a complete cast to throw to. Santonio Holmes, viewed as the team’s best receiver, has missed five games this season due to a hamstring injury, while Jeremy Kerley has missed a bit of time as well due to various injuries. Kerley leads the Jets in receptions and receiving yards, but is out indefinitely as he nurses a dislocated elbow.
Kellen Winslow proved to be a weapon early on in the season for Smith until he was forced to sit out four games due to violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs. Stephen Hill has appeared in all 10 games, but he might as well have been suspended considering how little he’s produced.
Being thrust into action and learning on the job are certainly valid excuses for Smith’s struggles. Injuries and poor play around him also doesn’t help. Eventually though, there has to be some improvement shown on his part no matter the surroundings. And that hasn’t really happened yet.
Few Jets fans could’ve imagine being in the playoff race before the season started, giving the team something of a honeymoon phase should they fail to advance to the postseason. The pieces are in place though going forward for the fan base to expect a bit more next year. As of right now, picturing Smith in a big game is more terrifying than comforting.