He was overlooked in the first round of the 2013 NFL draft by several teams with quarterback woes (Buffalo, Jacksonville and Philadelphia, among others) and wasn't drafted until pick No. 39, when the Jets decided it was time to officially shake things up on offense and get rid of Tim Tebow for good.
Reports then started leaking about his "Words with Friends" obsession during the first round:
Since then, "inside NFL sources" have been bashing Smith about attitude problems, a lack of passion for the game and an overall disapproval of his skills—all reasons why he slipped in the 2013 draft.
Give the kid a break.
Smith just completed an extensive collegiate career at West Virginia, where in his final season he threw for over 4,200 yards, completed 71.2 percent of his passes and also dished out 42 touchdown passes, good for first in the NCAA in 2012.
During pre-draft workouts and subsequent meetings, Smith was all the rage. He ran the fastest quarterback mark in the 40-yard dash at the NFL combine and was expected to draw interest from Philadelphia at No. 4, Cleveland at No. 6 and Buffalo at No. 8. Smith was virtually assured to be a top-15 pick.
As Roger Goodell kept coming to the stage in the first round, however, Smith's name remained on the board.
He watched E.J. Manuel go to the Bills at No. 16 and saw other teams at the bottom of the first round pass him up, teams that could very well need a QB of the future in the next three to-four years (Dallas and Pittsburgh, for example). It had to sting when the Baltimore Ravens came on the clock at No. 32, because there was virtually no shot he was going to get drafted then.
Round 2 came on Friday, and Smith decided to stick it out at Radio City Music Hall (h/t NFL.com). His patience was rewarded when the Jets made him their third pick of the 2013 draft, a move that signaled a changing of the guard in the New York backfield.
Then, out of nowhere, really, reports started funneling in of dislike for Smith.
Attitude questions, motivation and football IQ have all been brought into question over the past few weeks. When a player like Smith slips into the second round, there has to be something wrong with his character, right? It couldn't be that teams don't want to reach and miss for a QB or feel a different player is a better fit, could it?
It's a theory that Gregg Doyel of CBS Sports also fails to understand—for a number of reasons.
Doyel laid into reporters that had been doing the same to Smith on Tuesday, questioning the validity of the "inside sources" that Pro Football Talk, Nolan Nawrocki and ESPN have been using to push the story of Smith being on his phone in interviews with teams and coming off like a spoiled brat (via Cimini's ESPN piece).
While those are all excellent questions for the Smith-bashers to answer in the coming weeks, an even better response to the Smith hate is much simpler—he hasn't played an NFL snap (preseason, training camp or otherwise) and is a rookie quarterback not assured of a starting job.
It's far too early to heap criticism—or praise, even—on a guy without any NFL experience.
Smith was an excellent college quarterback and a guy that has been praised for his work ethic, attention to detail and outstanding personal skills in the past (like former head coach Dana Holgorsen did to Jim Rome). He responded to the critics in an interview with USA Today on Monday and didn't sound like a guy ready to give anyone problems during his rookie season:
That's not true, said Smith flatly [when asked about recent reports of his team interviews]. I got strong remarks from all the teams I visited with. ... I couldn't care less what's coming out in the media because I know what's true.
What more can you ask for? As of right now, my role as a rookie quarterback is to be a sponge....I have a goal in mind. I'm going to work hard towards it. And I'm just going to do all the things I think are necessary for me to eventually be one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL.'
When asked about another aspect of his current infamous stardom (the agent saga), Smith also took responsibility for choosing not to go to the Senior Bowl instead of heap all the blame on his management:
It was a decision I ultimately made...My first instinct is always to go out and compete. I'm a competitor. It's one of those things where I trusted those guys. They advised me that it may have been best for me not to go.
Compelling, passionate points for a man being painted as a spoiled brat.
Don't cave in and buy the Geno Smith line right now. It has nothing to do with discrediting sources from established reporters or questioning what Smith should be looking at on his phone during the green room at the NFL draft—it's all about not being on the field yet. .
He's in the NFL to play football, and that's something we have not yet been able to see him do at this level.
All the conjecture about attitude problems and work ethic will surface when he hits the field. If they never surface, it will be a laughing matter for the ones who discounted Smith before he ever took a snap under center in a Jets uniform, and if they do surface, then the haters get the last laugh.
Either way, he'll be proving someone right on the field, not from the comfort of his couch in a response to criticism or in an interview about what he can bring to the field.
Smith will come into a favorable situation in New York (if you discount the media circus). He'll have no pressure to start right away (h/t NFL.com), can establish himself as a quick learner with a strong camp and can sit and learn behind two proven veterans (David Garrard and Mark Sanchez) while he learns the ropes.
The NFL is about what you can do on the field. It always has been. Sure, stars sometimes transcend the playing surface because of off-the-field issues, celebrity mishaps and other pressure that makes things difficult to succeed, but to harp on a guy that has had no legal troubles, played all four of his college years at the same school (a rarity these days) and has the talent to succeed is beyond me.
If we're going to attack Geno Smith, let's do it when he's on the field. Anything less is an injustice of epic proportions to the integrity of the game he's been drafted to play.
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