By Bob Hertzel
For the Times West Virginian
Geno Smith’s career in New York has started in controversy, something he avoided for the four years he quarterbacked West Virginia University.
The former Mountaineer, who broke all the school’s passing records, has fired his agents, Select Sports, just days after he became a second-round selection of the New York Jets in the NFL draft, the second quarterback taken behind Florida State’s E.J. Manuel.
Smith, who was the 39th pick in the draft, reportedly felt he should have been a Top 10 pick in the draft. Manuel went to the Buffalo Bills with the 16th pick.
The story that Smith fired his agents broke in the Sports Business Journal and was confirmed by USA Today.
Talking on NFL Sirius radio, Smith refused to discuss the situation.
“I don’t want to shed too much light on it,” he said. “The thing that I can tell you is that it’s not because of the whole draft experience. It’s not because of one particular incident. There’s a number of things. And that story, you know, that battle will be fought on a different day. As of right now, I don’t feel too comfortable talking about
all the details of it.
“First and foremost, I want to make it known that I was never bitter about where I was selected because it’s a great selection. Whether it was number one or the last pick, I was coming in with the right mentality, and that’s to get better and compete daily. I’m extremely ecstatic to be a part of the Jets organization.”
“I’m not bitter about where I was selected, because I’m on a great team and I’m in a great position,” he said.
There has been a lot of talk that Smith’s spot in the draft was hurt by his turning down an invitation to play in the Senior Bowl, perhaps at the advice of his agents.
It is at the Senior Bowl that NFL scouts take a long, hard look at prospects, but there is also a chance of injury in the game prior to the draft.
Smith did go to The Combine and to his Pro Day at WVU and put on impressive performances at each, but none was able to lift him to first-round draft status.
Smith became the focal point of the draft as he sat in the Green Room throughout the first round with cameras focusing on him as his spirits clearly dropped with each pass. Toward the end of the draft, Smith left with his family, telling ESPN that he would be leaving New York and not return for the second day of the draft.
That move was perceived as a sign he could not handle the kind of pressure and criticism he will face from the New York media.
Smith, however, changed his mind after going out to a birthday dinner with his mother, who was celebrating her 40th birthday.
Smith cannot hire new agents for five days but there really isn’t much negotiating that can be done by rookies on their first contracts. Last year, the 39th selection, Rams’ cornerback Janoris Jenkins, singed a four-year, $4.99 million deal.
If Smith had been picked in the first round his contract would have given him $6.7 million with $5.4 million guaranteed.
Ryan Nehlen has been invited to camp with the Detroit Lions next week, according to a source who has spoken with the former University High and WVU wide receiver.
That makes five players who have agreed to go to camp as free agents from West Virginia: Joey Madsen and J.D. Woods (Pittsburgh), Josh Jenkins (Seattle), Shawne Alston (New Orleans) and Nehlen.
Email Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.