It might have been a “Jets decision” as general manager John Idzik likes to say, but it wasn’t a unanimous decision to draft Geno Smith last year.
Speaking to Metro, multiple team sources say the potential was evident in Smith, who now enters his second year as the Jets’ starting quarterback, but there was a recognition among management that he was far from a finished product. Even more telling, some in the Jets draft room felt Smith might never develop to be a long-term solution.
“The question was ‘Can he be the guy?’ The room was split,” one team source told Metro. “This wasn’t a slam dunk.”
All team sources spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Everyone in the draft room last year agreed he had talent and that he could develop into a good quarterback. But there was a noticeable split in the room on whether Smith would ever develop.
“John is big on everyone coming together and everyone being a part of it – the decision,” a source said. “But at the end of the day, John is a big believer in his way and the way he wants to do things. It all came down here to John. It’s all John — 100 percent.”
There were ups and downs last year in Smith’s rookie year, but he made significant gains over the final month of the season as the Jets went 3-1 and finished with an 8-8 record. But there are limited signs of improvement this season. He is on pace to throw 20 interceptions, just one off the mark from his rookie year.
Even though there was first-round hype around Smith, the West Virginia quarterback fell to the second round on concerns about his acclimation to the NFL from a wide-open passing offense in college. The 15 to 20 people in the Jets draft room in April 2013 discussed Smith as they ranked the top remaining players on that board.
Smith had a late first-round grade and was the second quarterback on the Jets’ draft board behind E.J. Manuel, who was selected No. 16 overall but benched by the Bills this week.
One team source said there was a question whether Smith “could compose himself.” Another team source said not everyone in the room was sold on “his ability to read defenses, [and] pocket presence. Simply, how high his ceiling was.”
He was a U.S. Army All-American coming out of high school and statistically one of the best quarterbacks in the nation in college. Despite the big numbers, nearly every scout acknowledged he needed refinement.
For now, the Jets are committed to Smith as their quarterback. Head coach Rex Ryan said Monday he believes Smith can be their franchise quarterback.
“Well, I am hopeful of that. There is no doubt I am hopeful of that,” Ryan said. “I think he’s got the skillset to be an outstanding quarterback. I think he has the toughness, the mental toughness, to do it. I hope so.”
But hope and actual belief are two separate things.
Smith was appealing as the second quarterback on their draft board, but the concerns centered on his ceiling. In the second round, teams often draft on potential. Where Smith’s potential would take him was unclear.
“It was a variety of things. You talk about cold weather, his mentality. Can he compose himself?” a source said. “Can this quarterback be that guy? Not everyone thought so.”
Nearly every one who talked to Metro cautioned it is too soon to think about Smith being a bust.
“There were plenty of people who said that he may not be the long-term solution at the position,” one of the team sources said. “He does many things right, you don’t want to pan him yet, but right now, you can’t help but look at the product on the field and say that the Jets knew what they were getting, and they got it.”
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.