Geno Smith's Career is Coming to a Crossroads
During Dana Holgorsen’s first two years in Morgantown, quarterback Geno Smith and receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey rewrote the West Virginia record books.
Between the three of them, every single passing and receiving record was broken in the first year under Holgorsen, then it was capped off with a 2012 Orange Bowl win over Clemson and the 70 points the Mountaineers hung on the Tigers is still an Orange Bowl record for most points scored.
Tavon Austin holds three of the Orange Bowl records, all-purpose yards (280), total touchdowns (4) and receiving touchdowns (4).
Yet, it was Geno Smith that received the Orange Bowl MVP with his record-setting six passing touchdowns.
That momentum was carried over into 2012 and a 5-0 start had Smith as the early Heisman Trophy favorite with several Heisman moments such as, throwing for 656 yards on 45-51 passing and eight touchdowns against Baylor, West Virginia’s first Big 12 Conference game.
Then a trip to Lubbock, TX changed everything as the Texas Tech Red Raiders beatdown the Mountaineers 49-14 and the following week, West Virginia suffered an embarrassing 55-14 home loss to No. 4 Kansas State.
Those two losses started a five-game skid that also included a double OT loss to TCU and “Tavon’s Night” was overshadowed by the one-point loss to Oklahoma.
West Virginia did, however, bounce back and win the final two games of the regular season to finish 7-5 but lost in the Pinstripe Bowl to rival Syracuse spoiled a season that had possible playoff possibilities.
Again, records were broken and the man that distributed the rock to two recording setting receivers was ready to take on the NFL. The draft experts had him going in the first round and some as high as No. 2 overall. As the first night of the 2013 Draft closed, Geno Smith was still on the board.
Geno was drafted in the second round (39th overall) by the Rex Ryan and the New York Jets. Smith was thrust into the fire his rookie year starting all 16 games on the season. The Jets were 4-4 through the midway point of the season before starting the back half of the schedule with a win over New Orleans.
However, Smith went through a tough stretch completing just 38.2% of his passes and six interceptions in a three-game slide, that essentially knocked New York out of the playoffs, before bouncing back and guiding the Jets to a 3-1 record throwing for 250.3 yards per game and four touchdowns to finish the season 8-8.
In the spring of 2014, the Jets released receiver Santonio Holmes and despite his increasing lack of production, safeties still had to account for him. The Jets never replaced that threat and that would wind up resulting in the inevitable fall of Geno Smith and Rex Ryan for that matter.
In the 2014 season opener, Geno went 23-28 (82.4%) for 221 yards and a touchdown in a 19-14 win over the Oakland Raiders.
Then, New York went on a seven-game skid as Smith took the brunt of the blame following three interceptions in the first quarter against the Bills before Ryan pulled him from the game.
The following Monday, Ryan announced Michael Vick was the starting quarterback heading into week nine. That lasted all of two and a half games after it was the Bills defense, again, wreaking havoc and again, the demise of the Jets starting QB.
Geno started the final five games of the season. In the last four games, the Jets went 2-2 and Smith again looked poised to be a starting quarterback in the NFL, tossing 250.3 yards per game on a 65.1% completion rate with six touchdowns and two interceptions.
Smith showed steady improvement from his rookie year through the end of his second season, even without a playmaker on the outside. His completion percentage went up from 55.8% to 59.7% and reduced his turnovers by eight.
Nonetheless, Rex Ryan's time in New York had come to an end and the Jets hired Arizona Cardinal Todd Bowles, along with bringing in quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and a legitimate threat on the outside in Brandon Marshall. Regardless, Smith kept his starting job after offensive coordinator Chan Gailey named the starter in May.
That was until August 10th when teammate and linebacker Ikemefuna Enemkpali punched Smith in the jaw, fracturing it in two places requiring surgery and at the time, was going to be out ten weeks.
Fitzpatrick benefited, not only from Smith having a broken jaw, but from having a caliber receiver. Marshall hauled in 1,502 yards of his 3,905 passing yards and brought in 14 of the touchdown passes.
Smith came in for an injured Fitzpatrick after dislocating his finger on the first drive at Oakland in week eight. Although the Jets lost 34-20, Smith was 27-42 passing for 265 yards and two touchdowns in his only appearance of the season. The Jets went 10-6 on the year but missed out on the playoffs.
In Smith’s final year with the Jets, he saw limited action despite making one start, only to have Ryan Fitzpatrick takeover after going 4-8 for 95 yards and a touchdown in Oakland.
In 2017, Smith moved on from the Jets and headed over to the New York Giants facilities to back up two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning before going across the country the following season to become the San Diego Chargers number two QB behind Phillip Rivers.
Last season, Geno signed a one-year deal with the Seattle Seahawks and early indication out of the northwest is the Seahawks might be looking for a dual-threat quarterback to back up current starter Russell Wilson.
Regardless, the future in Seattle is a backup role for any incoming quarterbacks and at 29, Smith still has an opportunity to possibly becoming a starting NFL quarterback.
He spent the last three years behind three different future Hall of Fame quarterbacks and it may be time for him to make his move to become the face of a franchise. However, it will have to be earned in the offseason and a team must be willing to give him a chance. The question is, is there a market for Geno Smith? Only time will tell.