By Jason Keidel
» More Columns
Eugene Cyril “Geno” Smith III has a new employer. And a new home.
The good news is, he didn’t need to move to a new state, new city, or even a new building.
Like Brandon Marshall, his former wide receiver and teammate with the Jets, Smith chose to merely slide down the hall. Like Marshall, Smith just changed colors, from green to Big Blue. And, like Marshall, Smith must be thanking his deity for this good fortune.
But unlike Marshall, who has been wildly productive for a decade and surely had myriad teams pining for his services, Smith has to wonder why he ended up being the beneficiary of such cosmic luck, to hit three cherries on his football career. It can’t be karma, as he was hardly a glowing teammate. Indeed, it started at the 2013 draft when Smith made a resounding statement by storming out of Radio City and vowing to fly home because he wasn’t picked in the first round.
Then there was the small matter of $600 — the amount he allegedly owed teammate IK Inemkpali. For whatever reason, Smith felt he not only could stiff the hulking linebacker, but could also taunt him over it. Smith’s reward was a clean hook, shattered jaw, and the loss of his starting job and his future with the Jets.
Largely known for shrewd personnel moves based on talent and character, the Giants seemed to just sign someone short on both. Smith is perhaps better known for his draft day/sideline scowl — call it the “I deserve better!” look — than for any gridiron deeds. Does Smith have a singular Sunday moment? Can you recall a game or play when you made a note to yourself that the kid had arrived?
While most Jets fans share the same view on Smith — something to the extent of “good riddance!” — there’s a small faction that thinks Smith either didn’t get a real shot with a real club or did pretty well with the low-end talent around him.
Make what you will of his stats, but it’s the only universal metric we have. Smith completed 57.9 percent of his passes, for 28 touchdowns and 36 interceptions. His record during his tormented time with the Jets was a fitting 12-18. Sure, he would have done a bit better with Marshall and Eric Decker than he did with David Nelson and Jeremy Kerley, but don’t truly gifted quarterbacks make the offense better, rather than rely on the offense to make them better? If you need to toss a lifeline Smith’s way, you’ll say he needed a true change of scenery, even if his new home looks exactly the same, except for the players and the colors.
But will Smith even get a chance to debunk his detractors? One could argue that the job of backup quarterback for the Giants is either the best job or the worst job in sports. The bad news is Eli Manning’s backup will likely never play a game, a quarter, or a snap. The good news, depending on your perspective, is Smith will never play a game, quarter, or snap, and hence won’t be brutalized in the pocket, won’t worry about concussions, and will get paid to clutch that clipboard for three hours every week.
If anyone, however, is frothing for him to have a chance to prove his football mettle, it’s Smith. No active NFL quarterback — except Colin Kaepernick and maybe Brock Osweiler — has more repairs to perform on his off-field reputation and on-field production. Smith, 27, would love the chance to play with Odell Beckham and Marshall, but you have to earn your place on the field.
And what does it say about the Jets, who know more about Smith than anyone, that they thought Josh McCown was a better option? McCown will turn 38 before the season starts, has been traded twice, and the Jets will be the eighth team he has dressed for. The last time McCown started at least 10 games (2014) he went 1-10, completing 56.3 percent of his passes, with 11 touchdowns and 14 picks. The Jets found that more appetizing than a player 10 years his junior.
Smith enters this season with the possibility that it could be his last. He enters the Giants’ locker room short on production and respect. Maybe the Giants see something in him that we don’t. For his sake, here’s hoping Big Blue finds luck in No. 7.
Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel