When the New York Giants “host” their co-tenants, the New York Jets, there will be a familiar face wearing blue instead of green – quarterback Geno Smith.
And while Jets’ fans likely snicker and mutter, “He’s your problem now,” Smith is aware of such mocking, but doesn’t hold any ill will towards those Gang Green fans that are still bitter about his Jets’ tenure.
That’s because Smith is too busy trying to win the coveted backup job behind Eli Manning.
“It’s going to be an exciting game [and] another opportunity to go out there and play with these guys on my new team and to really build ourselves up. Obviously, going against your old team, you may have a few emotions here and there, but I think I’ll be able to manage it well. It’s not really about the Jets. It’s more about me going out there and just continuing to get better and continuing to showcase my ability,” said Smith, who did admit deep down he’d like to prove to his former fanbase that he’s not the same old Geno. “You always have that mentality. You always want to go out there and prove yourself … I have a lot of respect for a lot of people in that organization and I appreciated my time there, but now it’s just focusing on what I have to focus on, which is going out there and executing on game day.”
It’s unlikely that Smith will have star wideouts Odell Beckham Jr. (ankle) and Brandon Marshall (shoulder). And he may not even have the services of backup wideout Tavarres King (ankle), meaning save for second-year receiver Sterling Shepard, there’ll be a lot of unknowns on the receiving end of his passes. The veteran quarterback can’t worry about that, as he has his own situation to worry about. But he reasoned that alternating between the second and third teams in practices, as he duels with Josh Johnson for the primary backup job, will help prepare him for Saturday’s game.
“It’s not really been that challenging [flip-flopping between second and third teamers]. Everyone is competing and focusing really hard and trying to make the team, so it won’t be a problem [connecting with whoever is out there, Saturday]. … That’s one thing that I appreciate about this team, is that no matter who’s out there, whether it’s first, second, or third team, guys are busting their butts and trying to get better.”
Smith noted that while he’s been busting his butt and preparing everyday as if he’s the starter, he also acknowledged this backup battle is still a race because of his tendency to turn over the football.
He’s thrown an interception in every game this preseason, which hearkens Jets’ fans back to the Geno Coaster days. Smith knows his former team will be expecting a few balls their way, he just needs to focus hard enough to not let those prophesies come true.
“Honestly, I don’t put my focus on the negative. When I go out on the field, I think about scoring touchdowns, leading the guys, and making sure we’ve got that fire and drive to go out there and put points on the board. You can never eliminate turnovers from the game. Every quarterback has them, you know. It happens. Unfortunately that’s a part of the game, but you’ve got to overcome it,” he said. “I know when you’re in the red zone, you’ve got to take care of the football. You’ve definitely got to be mindful of it. You know, first thing first is protecting the football … but you don’t want to go out there and play scared or just check it down every time.”
Smith came into the league as a noted gunslinger from West Virginia University’s spread, downfield passing attack. Such a down-the-field carefree attitude in college carried over with the Jets when he became an early starter. But it was fool’s gold at WVU, because his 97-20 touchdown-to-interception ratio would never carry over into the National Football League where defenses are more sophisticated and passing windows are minuscule. Since entering the league, turnovers and careless decisions have plagued Smith and it’s been the same bugaboo at times this preseason, as it was during his time with the Jets.
He’ll need to shore up that carefree mentality on Saturday if he expects head coach Ben McAdoo to entrust him as Manning’s backup.
“When I go out there on the field, I understand what it’s about and I just try to go out there and make the best of it. I think I’ve done a pretty decent job of getting completions, but I can do a lot better,” Smith said, already aware the next question was going to be about his penchant for untimely giveaways. “I have to be very focused on the details – the small details within the games. I’m still learning the offense and still progressing, but there’s some things I could do better as far as, you know, being more detailed. So, those are things that I’ve got to clean up, and I’ll focus on that.”
Jets’ fans are waiting to see if he’s a wiser and older Geno, or just the same ol’ Geno.