The progression and evolution of a rookie quarterback in the National Football League poses a few similarities to raising a toddler.
There’s the excitement of seeing them grow and develop as well as the occasional “No, what are you doing?!” moments that go along with the territory.
New York Jets QB Geno Smith has certainly had some ups and downs in his first two weeks as the starter. With Mark Sanchez being placed on the injured reserve-designated for return list, the job appears to be his until at least Week 11.
As to be expected from a rookie signal caller, Smith has made his share of mistakes early on.
During Smith’s first start, an 18-17 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, with time winding down and the first half’s two-minute warning seconds away, he tried to call timeout even though the two-minute mark would’ve resulted in a clock stoppage. Luckily, the referee didn’t grant his wish and the team was spared from burning an unnecessary timeout.
Turnovers have also been a bit of a recurring theme early on for the young quarterback. Following a fumble and an interception in his debut against Tampa Bay, Smith threw a costly interception at the New England 11-yard line early in the fourth quarter of a 13-10 loss against the Patriots. The pick came on third down, at a time when anything but a turnover would’ve likely resulted in at least a game-tying field goal attempt. The interception was one of three thrown in the final quarter.
It hasn’t been all doom and gloom though for the Jets rookie. Smith completed 24 of his 38 passes during Week 1 and was effective with both his arm and his legs. In addition to his 256 yards passing, he also led the team in rushing with 47 yards on six carries. Down two with just 34 seconds left from their own 20-yard line, the former West Virginia Mountaineer displayed the confidence of an old pro in leading the Jets on their game-winning drive.
Yes, a boneheaded personal foul by the Buccaneers pushed the Jets into field goal range, but it was the legs of the scrambling rookie that kept the drive alive.
Smith’s Week 2 start was marred by dropped passes and turnovers but he did show signs of toughness; hanging in there after being sacked multiple times and taking a monster hit in the first quarter against the Patriots yet still completing a 27-yard pass in the process.
“What doesn't kill you makes you stronger,” the quarterback said following the loss against the Patriots. “And the positive thing is that in the locker room we are all close-knit, we’re a brotherhood and we’re tight. I have guys constantly supporting me and keeping my head up and spirits high.”
For a Jets franchise that went from the AFC Championship Game to the bottom of the league in just a few short years, supporting their rookie is key if they want to continue to climb out of the league’s basement.
As the NFL becomes more and more of a quarterback-friendly league, the rise to the top can occur just as quickly. Fans can look at teams such as the Indianapolis Colts, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, and Washington Redskins, to see the impact that fellow young quarterbacks Andrew Luck, Colin Kaepernick, Russell Wilson, and Robert Griffin III, respectively, can have in a short matter of time.
If Smith is able to keep his team in games and learn from the occasional interception or poor decision, the reward will outweigh the risk going forward.
Growing pains are part of the package deal with a young, talented quarterback. Much like caring for a toddler, a little patience and understanding can go a long way.