FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Geno Smith is unfazed by all the critics and doubters.
There are lots of them, for sure. There’s a growing contingent of fans and media who think Smith’s time as a New York Jets quarterback is over — no matter what happens Sunday in the season finale at Miami.
Smith has news for you: He believes he’s only getting started.
“I see myself being the quarterback here for a long time,” he said. “I see myself helping this team turn things around. Obviously, I’m a part of the reason why we’re in this position, so I’d love to be a part of the solution.”
This “situation” would be a 3-12 record that has the futures of both coach Rex Ryan and General Manager John Idzik in serious doubt with the franchise. There’s a good chance owner Woody Johnson could clean house on Dec. 29, opting for wholesale changes throughout the organization.
Ryan insisted he believes the Jets are an ascending team despite the record, and “it’s obvious what it needs, but I’m not going to get into it.”
Well, that could include the quarterback position, among others. Smith has 10 touchdown passes and 13 interceptions with a 70.9 quarterback rating this season. With his shaky play in his first two years, many believe the Jets will pursue another answer at quarterback through free agency or the draft this offseason.
But Smith remains steadfast that he can help the Jets rebound from what quickly became a lost season, including an eight-game losing streak.
“I know that it takes hard work and not everyone is going to see the same things, but within this locker room, within this group of guys, we all see the potential we have as a team,” Smith said. “Obviously, that’s not saying much with the record that we have right now, but we believe that if we work hard enough and we do what’s right, we can turn things around.”
One of the major questions, however, is whether Smith will progress beyond what he has shown so far.
In 29 NFL games, Smith has 40 turnovers — 34 interceptions and six lost fumbles — along with a paltry 68.4 overall quarterback rating. He has regressed in the eyes of many, with his penchant for staring down receivers something even opponents have pointed out.
“I think he certainly has a chance,” offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said. “There are some guys that don’t even play for a couple or several years, even. So, he’s got an awful lot of experience banked. I think he’s got a real chance and an opportunity to become a good quarterback. But that’s going to be up to him.”
Which means Smith will need to improve his timing, reading defenses and his consistency.
“He’s young, talented, bright and works hard with his preparation,” Mornhinweg said. “So, he’s got an awful lot of really good qualities. Nobody’s got the crystal ball, but usually when you work hard and prepare and you’re talented, good things start happening at some point.”
Smith has gotten a full taste of playing in the hyper-critical New York-New Jersey market after growing up in Florida and playing in college at West Virginia. The quarterback said a recent comment that “change could be good for us all” when asked about a potential coaching change was “misunderstood,” and he was referring to his college experience.
“My feelings toward Rex, I love the guy,” Smith said. “Love playing for the guy. He’s my coach and I wouldn’t trade him for the world.”
But he also acknowledged he needs to be more careful in his choice of words.
“When I was coming in, everyone was saying, ‘Hey, it’s going to be tough,’” Smith said. “You don’t know what you’re getting yourself into until you actually go through it. It has been tough, but it’s not something that’s overwhelming. It’s something that I fully accept and I understand and I welcome.
“I appreciate the fact that I’m here in New York and we do get all this coverage because I believe that when we turn things around (the coverage will) be on a positive side.”
(DENNIS WASZAK Jr., AP Sports Writer)