If you think Geno Smith’s performance Monday night was a fluke, you haven’t been paying attention.
After Geno led the Seahawks to a big upset of Russell Wilson and the Denver Broncos, Seattle Seahawks fans can expect more of the same. Why? Because years of hidden evidence point to it.
After his first year and a half leading an absolutely putrid Jets roster in 2013-2014, Geno showed both signs of greatness, and early miscues typical of any young QB. Geno’s first big growth jump didn’t begin on Monday night in 2022, it started in his last four games of 2014. Let’s start here:
Yes, Geno has a near 100.0 pass rating since his last four Jets games in 2014. And most of that in spot starts over many years without the benefit of continuity. But Geno’s past critics, at minimum, are lazy.
Lazy as in, they don’t:
- Properly analyze his past statistics that highlight his growth.
- Thoroughly review past video of his exceptional throws and accuracy.
- Bother to see how he has shined the very few times he was given starting-caliber receivers; or even his elevated play last year against tough defenses.
Many of Geno Smith’s critics see his early Jets miscues forcing throws into tight windows to bad receivers as a permanent feature. In reality, it was a natural learning process that has turned Geno into the low-turnover, high-accuracy QB he is today.
Laziness is also indicative of most in national media, if not outright disrespect in order to sell Smith as a bumbling villain. For many Geno critics, it’s more than that. This tweet thread by The Athletic’s Steven Ruiz summed up my exact feeling this week that Geno’s long overdue second chance isn’t “heartwarming,” but would have happened long ago if he were a white quarterback.
Many critics on Twitter — some trolls, perhaps — predictably disagreed with Ruiz despite well-documented white quarterback privilege that allowed Ryan Fitzpatrick, Josh McCown, and Mike Glennon to start a combined 153 games (51-102) while playing for 17 different teams over Geno’s career. Unless Black QBs are great right out of the gate, they rarely get second chances. But for the purposes of this article, let’s forget all that. Let’s also pretend the NFL loves to hire Black coaches, never blackballed Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid, and that, say it with me now, “race has nothing to do with it!”
Some Geno critics are rooted in racial biases, and others critics are not. But the vast majority are lazy. They won’t put in the work.
What a difference one game makes.
Up until last week or last year, Ruiz, myself, a few local New York writers, a small cadre of Jets fans, and most of his West Virginia fans were part of a small club of Geno Smith advocates who really believe Geno can be a franchise quarterback. When I once wrote a long piece on Geno’s incredible “Untapped Potential” and how he had an identical career start as Drew Brees, a predictable social media avalanche of mockery and ridicule ensued. It’s a small price to pay considering Geno himself may have lost over $100 million in wages to inferior white QBs.
The difference between Geno’s most ardent supporters, and Geno critics is we have put in more work, more number-crunching, and more tape-watching — a prerequisite for any Geno Smith evaluation since his past receivers have been so consistently awful at creating separation. And we are mostly sold by Geno’s exceptional level of poise and accuracy. For fans who think this is an overreaction to “just one game,” let’s take a closer look at Geno’s tenure with the Jets, Giants, and Seahawks.
2013 Rookie: Sports Illustrated picked the Jets to go 3-13 while asking: “Where are the Playmakers?” The Jets went 8-8 with Geno leading Gang Green to five comeback wins in a forgotten remarkable rookie season.
“After what he did against the Patriots, outplaying Tom Brady in this 30-27 overtime victory,” wrote the Daily News’ Filip Bondy, “there can be no doubt about him any longer. Smith is the man.”
This was a real feeling in 2013. Lazy Geno critics like to point out his 12-21 TD/INT ratio while omitting his six rushing TDs. A veteran Eli Manning had 27 INTs that same year, and Peyton had 28 as a rookie. For the Mannings, interceptions are “growing pains” or a “bad year.” For Geno, we were often told “he can’t read defenses,” the career-ending language of permanence often applied to Black QBs.
2014 First Half: With a truly terrible roster, the Jets would begin the year 1-7 (like Brees’ 2nd year), and to many fans, and a brutal NYC media that pandered to them, that bad half-season would define the entirety of Geno’s career. “Geno sucks.” End of story. One bad half of a season is all it took.
2014 2nd Half Surge: In Smith’s 2014 late-season surge, he posted a 105.3 passer rating in his last four games, punctuated by his last game with a perfect passer rating while Eric Decker’s 10 catches for 221 yards were his career high. Ruiz provides past video breakdown of the Jets’ last five games the “more cerebral aspects of playing quarterback,” and that Geno is ”a lot better than you remember.”
2015: Geno only played one game, and Edward Gorelik at NFL Breakdowns tracked every play, and concluded Smith “showed some accuracy and difficult decision-making he’s never shown before as a passer.”
2016: Hard luck Geno tore his ACL in his first and only start shortly after throwing a touchdown pass. But not before the severity of his injury was questioned by Jets legend Joe Namath which summed up the disrespect afforded Geno’s Jets career.
Geno made NFL history by being the first black quarterback to start a game for the New York Giants. Despite coming off that ACL injury, the tape will show that Geno was incredibly accurate, and tight end Evan Engram had his best game of the season as part of five promising takeaways from the game. But nobody remembers that part.
Giants Head Coach Ben McAdoo’s one-game benching of an aging and declining Eli Manning, and an epic rant by Mike Francesca would ignite a disrespectful mass media hysteria so severe that McAdoo and longtime Super Bowl-winning GM Jerry Reese would get fired the very next day, and Geno’s own father received death threats.
To most members of the media, Geno was a “journeyman” unworthy of a second look, but McAdoo, who was previously Aaron Rodgers QB coach, didn’t see it that way.
“A guy that has his skillset is hard to find,” said McAdoo in training camp. “You can’t find guys out there that have that type of arm talent, the quick release, the throwing motion, and the feet that go with it. And he’s a competitor. It’s exciting to be able to bring a guy in and work with a guy like that and see where you take him.”
McAdoo was right about Geno Smith, and the Giants, now on their fourth coach since firing him, were wrong. Ultimately, the midseason firing of McAdoo, and especially the well-respected, long-tenured GM Reese sent an unmistakable message to other NFL coaches and GMs — having the audacity to believe that Geno Smith can be a legitimate starter could cost you your job.
Unlike McAdoo, Pete Carroll had the stature and pedigree to weather the storm of the media and fans to give Geno a fair chance over non-stop calls to draft a QB, trade for a QB, or start Drew Lock.
Few in the media took up for Geno Smith as capable of anything beyond a “bridge quarterback.” NBC Sports NFL analyst Chris Simms was a notable exception. After rewatching all of Geno’s throws in 2021, Simms says he “couldn’t get over the control of the football Geno Smith had last year.” Here’s more:
Again, Simms rewatched the tape.
This is not something most fans do. Want evidence? After the first Seahawks preseason game, SB Nation asked Seahawks fans whether Geno or Drew Lock “looked more impressive,” and Lock won in a landslide. SB Nation reported back “I think an 89-11 margin says it all.”
It only says 89 percent of their respondents were dead wrong.
Geno ended up completing 10-of-15 passes, but was really 14-of-15 with four dropped or mishandled balls on some beautiful throws. The main difference between Geno’s first preseason game and Monday night is that his receivers made catches.
After the second preseason game, Pro Football Focus ranked Geno Smith the top preseason QB of all QBs who threw at least 10 passes. PFF rightfully counts accurate throws as completions, fans don’t, especially fans who favored Drew Lock before a pass was thrown.
Luckily, Pete Carroll cares more about accuracy, reducing turnovers, and winning more games than pleasing fans. Besides, after chants of, “Ge-No, Ge-No” Monday night in Seattle, they seem to be changing their mind — for one game anyway.
But it should never have taken this long. What Carroll saw from Geno was nothing new:
“How about Geno? I mean, Geno, 17 for 18 in the first half,” a glowing Carroll said after the game. “Who does that? Remember, he did it against Jacksonville (last year). He had, I don’t know, 12, 13 in a row, something like that. Geno played tonight like he has been playing the whole time we’ve been practicing. That’s what he has been looking like. He didn’t look any different than what he has looked like in practice. That’s why we had the belief in him.”
Don’t call it a lucky game. Geno has been here for years.