Character and coachability or pure athleticism and talent, which are the more desirable traits in today's NFL? And which, if not all, have the Jets received by drafting quarterback Geno Smith in the second round of this year's draft?
The NFL is filled top-to-bottom with diverse players, all with some of the best football skills across the globe. Diverse in race and beliefs—-Jets draft pick Oday Aboushi becomes the NFL's first Palestinian-American. But also diverse in personality, demeanor, and, in some cases, criminal history. Side Note: The Detroit Lions need to get that figured out.
With the 39th overall pick, the New York Jets selected a quarterback. But it goes much further than that. It represents a direction, a playbook, a new hope. John Idzik now has his tenure with Gang Green tied to Geno Smith. And Smith didn't, initially, seem too thrilled about it.
Geno Smith had expected to go on Thursday night of the 2013 NFL Draft. Top-10, maybe even Top-5. Jacksonville held the second pick with questions at quarteback. Failing to be picked on the draft's first day, Smith vowed to not come for day two. However, he changed his mind, a decision possibly made on his own or by advice, and showed up on Day 2. Smith took heat for both the initial decision, and the 'changing of his mind,' with some fans and analysts doubting his maturity.
As it is now known, Smith instead went in the second round to the Jets. And his face on days one and two had a very similar expression. (More after the jump…)
Let's be fair.
Smith was told by many, hyped up by TV, and encouraged by his own agents, that he looked to be a high, Day 1 selection. And he did, no one was lying. But the draft falls as it falls; scouts don't get paid to suggest who ESPN tells them makes sense.
He was with his mother on her birthday, cameras focused. Only to make it past the QB-needing teams toward the top of the list, with EJ Manuel being the only QB selected in the round, and free-fall.
It is not an ideal situation to any extent. But by the 39th overall pick, Friday, Smith was wearing a Green and White cap, saying that the New York Jets are "making the playoffs" this year. Talk about a Rex Ryan type of player.
Fast forward four days…
Smith fires his agents, and there's your headlines, folks. Speaking on the firing on SiriusXM Radio, Smith said that he didn't want to "shed too much light on it," but that it wasn't because of the "NFL draft experience" or "one particular incident."
Select Sports, the agency that represented Smith, released a statement to say that they warned him that he could fall in the draft, but wish him the best.
Smith's not the first football player to fire his agents. It happens all the time. But the timing and appearance of it has created another reason for concern in the eyes of some fans.
In a survey conducted by One Jet at a Time, one fan that believes Smith has an attitude problem said, "He seems like he has a huge ego. He wanted to leave on the first day of the draft!"
Fanning the flames
With two instances already creating an image of Geno Smith that isn't so positive, a Yahoo! report comes out via writer Jason Cole, that includes quotes from two anonymous league executives. One executive claims that Smith doesn't know how to improve on his shortcomings, failing to take instruction properly. The other says that Smith isn't a leader.
Now, using anonymous sources is a sticky decision. The best information can come from those 'shy of the camera,' but it can also discredit a writer who puts time and effort into their work.
We reached out to Yahoo!'s Jason Cole for his personal thoughts on Geno Smith, to fill in some of the pieces.
On if the Jets made a mistake by drafting Smith: "I don't know if it was a mistake or not. We'll find out. But my tendency would be to say no, it was not a mistake. The kid is talented and most people considered him the best passer in the draft. Now, there are some troubling things, like all the fumbles (his pocket presence reminds me of Drew Bledsoe, who didn't sense the rush very well), his tendency to lock onto receivers, and his accuracy on deep throws. But no player is perfect and this was a value pick at No. 39 overall. I think Smith needs a lot of coaching and I'm not sure he's ready to play right away emotionally, but we'll see."
On what tangibles/intangibles Smith has or lacks: "Tangibles: Size, arm strength, experience and athletic ability are all good with Smith. He's also pretty accurate to about 20 yards downfield. Intangibles: He's pretty bright and driven. The bad side is that he appears to be emotional (his wanting to leave NY after the first round and the firing of his agents are examples of snap decisions) in the face of adversity and not completely understanding of the level of professionalism it takes to be a franchise quarterback in the NFL. Being tuned into his cell phone while he was on team visits didn't send a strong message. That's troubling, especially when you're going to play in New York. Can he learn to control his emotions and understand the big picture? Yes."
Cole took some heat for the article, but after talking to him myself, I feel that he was only reporting the story he had at the time. It may represent the Jets' newest QB in a negative light, but Smith hasn't stepped on a NFL field yet. No need for panic or anger.
Cole also brings up another instance of Smith's questionable decision-making. Further reports have come out, once again from anonymous NFL sources, that Smith seemed 'busy' with his cell-phone—texting and tweeting—during team visits.
That is not something you want a player that is about to be making millions of dollars to lead a NFL franchise to be doing during his most important interviews.
Still, there are those who have yet to see a poor demeanor out of Smith. One respondent to our survey seemed to attribute Smith's personality to confidence, saying "He is very comfortable with himself and the talent he has." The same respondent rated Smith a 1 out of 5, for how much they liked the pick (with one being the highest.)
The Battle of the AFC East
EJ Manuel, who I mentioned earlier, was selected by Buffalo in the first round. His talents have been heavily questioned by the sports community, and responses vary.
Going into the draft, NFL Network's Mike Mayock had Manuel ranked as the second-best QB prospect of the class, with some analysts not even having him in the Top-5. Manuel, according to majority vote, lacks accuracy on short and intermediate throws, in addition to making poor decisions, at times.
One thing that has never been questioned, however, is his leadership. During his time at Florida State, EJ Manuel inspired better play out of his teammates, most notably by playing through his senior season while his mother fought the battle against breast cancer.
Jason Cole told us that everyone he's talked to believes that Smith is more physically-gifted than Manuel. However, "Manuel gives off a vibe of a person who is completely engaged in the process and attentive to detail," Cole said. "On Thursday night after he was drafted, he must have been asked 17 times about his mother's battle with cancer. Each time, he answered as if it was the first time he has been asked and never once got tired of it. It's a small thing, but it shows that he gets the big picture of being the face of a franchise. Manuel sounds like a young Phil Simms. We'll see if he can play like that."
Manuel managed to finish his collegiate career with a 66.9 completion percentage, 7741 passing yards, 47 TD's to 28 INT's, and a 150.4 QB rating. Compare that to Geno Smith's career numbers: 67.4 completion percentage, 11, 662 passing yards, 98 TD's to 21 INT's, and a 153.5 QB rating.
It makes one wonder if the Bills were more comfortable giving up some production in favor of a better leader. Not to say Smith isn't a leader, because he is, but maybe Buffalo felt like EJ Manuel was better fit to handle the pressure of a NFL QB.
What gave the Bills hesitation with Smith, or fall in-love with Manuel? That may not ever be known for sure. But what is known is that the Jets face the Bills twice a year, and the match-ups between Smith and Manuel, possibly starting this season, should be must-watch TV.
Attitude and Excellence
The chip on Geno's shoulder, or boulder as a follower of our account calls it, could propel Smith's game to the next level, especially in games against Manuel.
Per Sports Illustrated: "It's not that I don't smile, it's just that I kind of took that to heart, the things that happened yesterday,'' Smith said, when asked why he didn't wear a smile as he crossed the stage Friday night and greeted NFL commissioner Roger Goodell upon being selected. "I'll smile as much as I can. But at the same time, remember all the things that happened.''
Everyone wants to reference Aaron Rogers for a recent example of a player who dropped in the draft, only to quiet the doubters in the NFL. Rogers still has a chip; he demands attention from his teammates, in order to rally the troops to victory. Still, I'm not ready to say it's a second-coming. Smith has the potential. The concern is his in-the-huddle and off-the-field leadership.
New York hasn't had a great quarterback for some time now, and as much I want to attribute that solely on the pressure of the microphones and bright lights, Eli Manning made the turn-around for the Giants, and the Jets need a player that's primed to do the same.
Smith comes into the mess in Florham Park, but he wasn't the cause and shouldn't be the cause for anything else. The Jets' 9th overall pick, CB Dee Milliner, has the pressure on his shoulders to 'replace Revis,' and Smith has the pressure of a franchise QB. Whether he sits for a season, or gets going right away, he has to learn to turn off the TV and just focus on the skills that have led him this far.
Geno Smith's attitude and confidence, traits incumbent Mark Sanchez have lacked, can be beneficial in leading this very young team to future success.
In-Text Image Credit: Michael LeBrecht/SI