Some people watch NFL games, and others just read about them. If you are in the latter category and visited ESPN’s website or saw its article on Twitter, your opening frame and video would be this:
“Geno throws crucial interception” reads the caption. We are also told it was “Geno Smith throws a bad pass”. The opening picture shows Geno on his ass with the Rams players celebrating. And if you play their video on their opening page, you will see the interception replayed three times — except without the original audio of the announcers.
If there was sound, one would hear the announcers specifically clarifying that the interception was NOT Geno’s fault because wide receiver Tyler Lockett got “tripped up” and fell down. Announcers Joe Buck and Troy Aikman would reiterate this point multiple times while gushing with praise for Geno’s poise and control all night after he entered the game following Russell Wilson’s finger injury.
Their opening video does not show Smith leading a meticulous 10-play, 98-yard drive which ended with a 23-yard touchdown strike to DK Metcalf. Or his second impressive drive that resulted in a field goal. Nor will you hear in this video the raucous Seattle crowd heartily chanting “Geee-no!, Geee-no!, Geee-no!” on both drives.
Yahoo Sports title framing of “Rams overcome slow start, Geno Smith-led comeback to beat Seahawks,” was far closer to reality. ProFootballTalk wrote “Geno Smith was Ready for His Chance” and Seahawks.com’s framed it “Seahawks QB Geno Smith Does ‘Incredible Job’ In Relief Of Injured Russell Wilson.”
To someone who didn’t watch the game, ESPN’s depiction of Geno vs. his actual performance couldn’t be more stark. Could it be that the Seahawks lost the game, and ESPN is real tough on losers in this bottom-line NFL? Not quite.
This is how ESPN depicted Mac Jones after he lost Sunday night’s game against the Tampa Bay Bucs on Twitter:
Despite losing, Mac’s “appreciation post” for “holding his own” against Tom Brady (note: Brady doesn’t play defense. That’s the job of the Bucs’ injury-ravaged secondary full of mostly backups). In Mac’s post, ESPN also chose to omit Mac’s own interception that night from their data. It’s almost as if ESPN is not objective.
Now had the Patriots won, Mac would have been the first rookie to beat Tom Brady head-to-head since… wait for it… Geno Smith in 2013! Back then, Sports Illustrated picked the Jets to go 3-13. Rookie Geno led a horrid Jet roster to an 8-8 record while posting five game-winning drives — tied for the NFL lead that season with Brady.
While no one is expecting any ESPN “Geno Smith Appreciation Posts” for his performance, you’d at least expect the hate to stop for a day.
To find the love, you’d have to listen to the Seahawks crowd chants of approval, and do what Seahawks.com writer John Boyle did: talk to Geno’s teammates and coach.
“I thought Geno did an incredible job,” said Lockett. “We were on what? the 3-yard line and he drove us all the way down there. Shoot, he did an incredible job. That was a big-time drive, he was very patient, reading through everything, all his keys. He really did phenomenal... We all know he can play like that”.
“It was great,” said teammate Quandre Diggs, “There was nothing Geno did that impressed me, because I know the type of work he puts in, I know how he tries to kill us in practice. He was ready for his moment and he took advantage of it.”
“He did great, he really looked good,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “He’s been working for that. He’s a talented football player, he knows our system. If Geno’s going to play for us some as Russ comes back, he showed that we’re in good hands.”
“We all knew what Geno could do,” added Lockett. “He really did awesome, and I was happy for him, proud of him, and the sky’s the limit for him.
Yes, “the sky’s the limit” for Geno, and many of us who have studied his career closely have been saying this for years. (Steven Ruiz tracked every Geno pass on video, and says “Geno Smith is a lot better than you remember,” and NFL Breakdowns charts more improvement from 2015.
Here’s my own 3,300 words on Geno’s “Insane Untapped Potential”. Contrary to popular memory amidst an Eli Manning Sentimentality Storm, Geno looked pretty damn good in his lone Giants game, too, despite a media machine so toxic that even Geno’s father was receiving death threats.
Know that Lockett’s high praise is not new. During Smith’s rookie year the Daily News’ Filip Bondy wrote this:
“Wherever it was you were watching this poised performance, you knew with certainty that here was the Jets’ quarterback of the future… After what he did against the Patriots, outplaying Tom Brady in this 30-27 overtime victory, there can be no doubt about him any longer. Smith is the man.”
After Season 1, most media praise came from local writers who closely watched Geno’s games. Nationally, NFL media and GM’s were unimpressed. After 2013, ESPN conducted an anonymous poll of 26 NFL “League Insiders,” mostly GMs and coaches, to rank all 32 starting QBs.
Where’s Geno? He’s No. 32. Dead last. ESPN quoted one coordinator comparing him to Akili Smith and JaMarcus Russell (two famous Black QB busts), and stated, “I think the way Geno Smith played last year was close to that.”
Except he didn’t. Not even close to close. He wasn’t even in the same galaxy as Akili (career 3-14 record & 46.6 completion percentage). The only thing Geno shares with Akili is his last name and black skin. And ESPN promoted this racist garbage.
If Geno could produce this media reaction after destroying preseason predictions, what do you think a 1-7 start in his second season with a horrific roster for the ages would do? Those eight games would end up defining his Jets career — not his surprising rookie season; or the 105.3 passer rating in his final four Jets games that year.
But the racism is not about the Jets. They ruin their young white QBs too. The racism is the rest of NFL GMs and media who can still envision promise in Sam Darnold despite starting his third season at 0-9, but not in Geno who they see a future akin to Akili Smith’s instead of a future Drew Brees’ – Geno’s most identical early career comparison.
How deep must racism be to refuse exploring a very simple question: What if Geno Smith threw to real starting wide receivers instead of the worst collective cadre of backups (see Stephen Hill, David Nelson, Jeremy Kerley) ever thrust upon a young QB. Because if you give Geno receivers who can actually create separation like Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf, you just might like the results.
A closer look shows Geno has never lost his job on the field. It was a media-demanded Eli Manning Farewell Tour that ended his one-game Giants stint in 2017; an ACL tear that ended his Jets career in 2016; and a locker room punch that broke his jaw that ended 2015. Of course, NFL locker room fights are pretty commonplace — including those involving Super Bowl champion quarterbacks.
Last year, ESPN did a retrospective article on the locker room fight five years later, and IK Enemkpali, who punched Smith, declined interview requests, but asked ESPN in a Facebook message, “What’s the point of bringing it back up? What’s your motive?”
It’s an excellent question.
Geno is now 30 years old – the same age as Steve Young before he finally got another starting shot after almost having his career destroyed after going 3-16 on a terrible Tampa Bay Bucs team. Older Steve needed support.
And after an incredible almost storybook comeback performance yesterday, Geno Smith deserves one too.
“It is gut wrenching sometimes,” said Geno after last night’s game. “Sometimes I fight back tears before the games, like, ‘Man, I wish I could be out there.’ Reality is, you got to prepare and you got to keep preparing. That is something that I pride myself on, is being prepared.”
It’s also gut-wrenching to see such a great performance, a great human story, and possibly a still-great career ruined by a network like ESPN who uses its platform to deceive its audience to clown Geno Smith instead of reading the room full of thousands of fans cheering his name.
What’s your motive, ESPN?