The Times West Virginian

April 27, 2013

After long wait, Geno’s a Jet

New York nabs WVU quarterback in second round

By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian

MORGANTOWN — In the most stunning move of the 2013 NFL draft, and that includes West Virginia University quarterback Geno Smith slipping through the first round without being selected, the New York Jets magnified the league’s biggest quarterback controversy by selecting Smith early in the second round.

It was so inconceivable that the Jets would add Smith to a mix that included incumbent Mark Sanchez, who became something of a Big Apple laughing stock when he became the central figure in the NFL blooper of the year known as the Buttfumble; former Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow, and former NFL starter David Garrard, Greg McElroy and Matt Simms that NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said it couldn’t happen because it would create a “circus.”

As if there wasn’t one there already … a circus with head coach Rex Ryan magnified by a New York media that feasts on such things, often devouring its prey.

No city loves a winner more and no city is harder on its losers and Sanchez has come to be looked upon as a loser.

Smith, of course, was oblivious to any controversy at the moment, having suffered through his long day’s journey into night on Thursday as he sat in what turns out to be aptly named the green room, considering the Jets’ colors, without being picked the first day.

Cameras kept focusing in on him as his expectations turned into disappointment with each passing pick, and after E.J. Manuel of Florida State was taken by Buffalo with pick No. 16, he spent much of his time with his face buried in his hands.

He had come with such high hopes, such anticipation, ready to enjoy his greatest day, to celebrate his mother’s 40th birthday, only to have it end with the family leaving Radio City Music Hall early when it became obvious he wasn’t going to be selected.

He was so depressed that that he thought about returning home to Florida, a move that would have drawn great criticism and been interpreted as a character flaw on his part, but that thought was shortlived.

Certainly, there would have been a certain irony on him leaving and having to return within 24 hours.

He showed up at Radio City Music Hall wearing a white sweater and smile, a really wide smile to go with the Jets baseball cap he put on after his name was called.

Soon, he sounded like another Jet quarterback from an earlier era, a fellow named Joe Namath who changed the history of football when he brashly predicted that the Jets, 17-point underdogs, would upset the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III.

“The Jets will make the playoffs,” Smith said for all the world to hear.

Asked about the Super Bowl, he backed off just a tad.

“We’ll see,” he answered.

What the Jets will do with their situation remains to be seen. They probably will try to trade Sanchez but it’s doubtful that anyone would want to pick up his $8.25 million salary and its equally unlikely the Jets would cut him with what they would have to pay him not to play.

Do the Jets start Sanchez or go with their new prize rookie who completed 71.2 percent of his passes with a stunning 42 touchdowns to six interceptions?

Smith let it be known he wasn’t planning on being a backup.

“I’m ready to compete,” Smith said. “I’m ready to go and try to win the starting job. ... I’m on the team and it’s time to go. ... I’m proud to be a Jet. ... We’re going to the playoffs next year.”

When asked if he could learn from Sanchez, his answer was not exactly what the questioner might have expected.

“I don’t know how to answer that,” he said.

Email Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@bhertzel@hotmail.com or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel