The New York Giants surprised the football world after announcing that Eli Manning, their iron-man long-time starting quarterback, would be benched for the team’s Week 12 matchup. His replacement? Former New York Jets punching bag/draft disappointment Geno Smith. Few seem to think Smith is up to the challenge, especially given the circumstances and poor talent around him, but is it really all doom and gloom for the former West Virginia star? Let’s explore.
Rewind to 2014, the last time Smith was a starter for any significant amount of time. He ended his season throwing 13 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, but those numbers are a bit misleading. Smith started that season poorly, starting the season struggling to move the ball and throwing far too many back-breaking interceptions, before turning it on over that last few weeks of the season. As a matter of fact, in the last game of the 2014 season, Smith actually played well enough to earn a perfect passer rating of 158.3 by going 20 of 25 with three touchdowns.
Let’s also not forget that lack of talent Smith had around him back then. Eric Decker was the team’s No. 1 receiver and he was banged up for most of the season, leaving Jeremy Kerley as his best receiving option most weeks. No offense to Kerley, who is a fine receiver, but a young quarterback needs better weapons around him if he hopes to succeed. The Jets failed to put that talent around him, and as a result, Smith played poorly up until the weapons around him started getting healthy and he finally flipped the switch in the season’s final weeks.
All that isn’t to say Smith is going to step in and become the Giants next franchise quarterback. Honestly, if Ben McAdoo were anything close to a viable NFL head coach then Manning would remain the starter and Smith would stay in his No. 2 role. That said, perhaps we should give Smith a chance before dismissing him as a disaster before he can even take the field as a starter again. This is a guy that many thought could make the leap before the infamous broken jaw incident in 2015, and perhaps with another chance to shine, Smith could surprise us all.