Let the Geno Smith audition begin!
After suffering 11 interceptions and only five touchdowns in the first six games, Todd Bowles and the desperate NY Jets turn to the man whose career was punched into oblivion – literally! But when Geno takes the field Sunday to prove that he is a capable starter in this league, it won't be his opponent that will be his biggest challenge. It will be the home crowd.
The NY Post intimated as much in a recent plea for the NY fans to take it easy on Geno, who has been booed profusely in the past.
"Don't boo his first incomplete pass, bad decision or interception. If you really want the Jets to make the most of a softer schedule and turn around their 1-5 season, then Smith will need your cheers before your jeers."Even the players understand the fickle nature of the NY sports fan and realize Geno may be facing an uphill battle.
"I know we have passionate fans here that really care," wide receiver Brandon Marshall said on Friday. "Sometimes they show their displeasure and I'm sure they'll do that if we're not turning it around. But we definitely need them on Sunday. We're in it together."
To be fair, Geno Smith is unlike most backup quarterbacks, who live a charmed existence and always start out in the fans' good graces. But because Geno has already had his chance to start and didn't make the most of it (to say the least), he'll be on a short leash Sunday.
He was the Jets starter as a rookie, thrust into the role when Rex Ryan inexplicably sent Mark Sanchez into the fourth quarter of a meaningless preseason game against the NY Giants in 2013. Sanchez, playing behind an inferior offensive line, was drilled into the ground by an opposing lineman, injuring his shoulder and getting knocked out for the entire season. Geno took the reins and lead the Jets to an 8-8 record.
However, the following season, the cracks started to show when Smith missed a meeting just a week after the Jets suffered the worst loss of then head coach Rex Ryan's career. According to the NY Daily News, Smith got the time mixed up being out on the West Coast and was at the movies instead. Three weeks later Smith threw interceptions in the span of one quarter against the Buffalo Bills prompting a parade of boos from the crowd and a benching from Ryan.
Smith was supposed to get his shot at redemption the following year with a new coach and new regime in upper management. But his opportunity came crashing down when backup linebacker IK Enkempali slugged Smith square in the jaw over a dispute regarding $600. Smith was injured and backup Ryan Fitzpatrick stepped in, never relinquishing the starting job the rest of the way. Thirty-one TDs and almost 4,000 yards passing later, it seemed Smith would be a footnote in Jets and NFL history.
But fast forward a year later and Fitzpatrick, doomed by both a brutal schedule and porous defense, has hit rock bottom. Coach Todd Bowles acknowledged that a move had to be made and once again, Geno Smith gets his shot at being the number one.
But with both Bryce Petty and second-rounder Christian Hackenberg waiting in the wings, Smith must seize the opportunity or forever be known as the quarterback whose career ended because of a locker room fight. The fact that the Jets overpaid Fitzpatrick to return shows the amount of confidence the organization has in Smith to be the man. That being said, if Geno can win the crowd over, he at least gives himself a fighting chance.
[Featured Image by Scott Halleran/Getty Images]