FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Geno Smith has put that agonizingly long wait in the green room at the NFL draft far behind him.
He’s got better things to focus on now. And, the New York Jets’ second-round pick sure has his sights set pretty high.
“My goal is to be a franchise quarterback,” the former West Virginia quarterback declared Saturday. “But as of now, there’s lots of work to be done.”
The Jets certainly would like to see that happen soon, especially since it appears the last player they drafted expecting to assume that label — Mark Sanchez — has struggled mightily the last two seasons and could be on his way out. The Jets are strongly considering cutting Sanchez
New York drafted its new quarterback of the future Friday night, stunning many who thought the Jets might go with Sanchez and David Garrard in training camp and play out the season. With Smith suddenly in the mix, the future could be now.
“My job is to compete,” Smith said at his introductory news conference at the team’s practice facility.
Smith might be in line already to start, even though the Jets have six quarterbacks on the roster with Smith, Sanchez, Garrard, Tim Tebow, Greg McElroy and Matt Simms. But soon, Tebow and/or Sanchez could be gone.
“We talked about that just a little bit as far as reps,” offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said. “I know you can do it with three, now there’s got to come a time where you need to make a choice, the timing is important as well. So everything we do is important. It’s got to be very well thought out and very well planned.”
Mornhinweg said he has spoken to Sanchez about the team’s decision to draft Smith — and, in effect, putting his job and spot on the Jets’ roster in jeopardy.
“He understands this is a competition now, so let’s rock and roll,” Mornhinweg said. “Here, we have four, even more, maybe six, and I hope they’re all thinking, ‘Hey, I have an opportunity to go win a job.'”
Smith, who hadn’t heard from any of the team’s other quarterbacks yet, impressed Mornhinweg at dinner the night before his pro day a few weeks ago — and then again on the field throwing the ball around. He raved to coach Rex Ryan and general manager John Idzik about his time with Smith, and it appeared there would be a chance the Jets would go after him in the first round.
Instead, New York went with cornerback Dee Milliner at No. 9 and then defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson at No. 13.
“I got word that it was between Sheldon and myself,” Smith said. “But they chose Sheldon, and he’s actually a good friend of mine, so I was happy for him.”
After slipping past the Jets, Smith continued to fall through the opening round and wasn’t happy about it. TV cameras caught him scowling, appearing frustrated and embarrassed as one name after another was called — and not his.
“It was kind of tough to stomach,” he acknowledged.
He considered going home the next morning, but decided to return to Radio City Music Hall and wait until he was finally drafted.
“I see it as a blessing in disguise,” Smith said. “The main reason for coming back was, I came out the first day to represent my university and my family, and I didn’t want the perception to be made that I’m bitter I wasn’t selected in the first round and let all those people down who support me.
“So, I made sure I came back and walked across that stage.”
Smith leaned on his family as well as his faith to get through those frustrating early moments, saying that if he was meant to go in the first round, he would have gone then.
“The focus is not where you start,” Smith said, “but where you finish.”
Smith, who owns almost all of West Virginia’s passing records, gets rid of the ball quickly, can make completions on the run and is capable of making big plays — something the Jets sorely lacked last season. He threw for 11,662 yards — including back-to-back 4,000-yard seasons — 98 touchdowns and only 21 interceptions in four years at West Virginia.
But there were still some reservations about Smith being an elite-type quarterback who could carry a franchise. Smith had some accuracy problems and also fumbled the ball an alarming 32 times. Contributing to those doubts was a subpar performance at the Pinstripe Bowl in the snow at Yankee Stadium, a 38-14 loss to Syracuse in which Smith took two safeties and was hardly the dominant presence he had been throughout the season when he threw 42 touchdown passes and just six interceptions. Scouts also questioned his overall skills in some predraft reports.
“We don’t care about anybody else’s evaluations,” said Mornhinweg, who thinks Smith will be fine in his West Coast-style offense. “We only care about ours.”
Smith was equally resolute: “You know what,” he said, “critics don’t have a pick.”
Smith will take the playbook he received from the coaches and study it over the next two weeks before he returns in two weeks for rookie camp. Then, he’ll get out on the field and the Jets will go from there.
“Our goal,” Mornhinweg said, “is, ‘Hey, let’s see how fast we can do this thing and get you ready to go, so you can function at a high level.'”
Smith has no problem with the expectations, and he thinks his ability to read offenses and change plays at the line of scrimmage in college helped him develop his ability and confidence.
“I was given a tremendous amount of freedom,” he said. “The coaches and the rest of the staff really trusted me with the offense. Week in and week out, I was a part of putting together the game plans. I think it helped me grow over the course of the last two years.”
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