Harris: Keep ego in check, 'Broadway Geno'
New York Jets
Florham Park, NJ
Broadway Geno Smith:
I hope you don't mind me referring to you by your new nickname.
Shortly after the New York Jets selected you with the No. 39 overall pick Friday, the local media anointed you Broadway Geno — becoming the first Jets quarterback given that distinction since Broadway Joe Namath.
Be careful, Broadway Geno. Don't fall for the hype.
You've come a long way from Miramar High School in suburban Miami. Morgantown, W.Va., must seem like a million miles away to you.
I was surprised that you predicted the Jets will reach the playoffs in 2013, because success never went to your head at West Virginia. I understand you were caught up in the moment and blowing off steam after being bypassed in the first round of the draft, but the proclamation was so unlike the Geno Smith I know.
I still believe you're the same humble quarterback I met during Big 12 Conference media days last July in Dallas. You were voted preseason offensive player of the year despite never playing a game in the Big 12, yet you refused to make a big deal about the honor. In fact, you always put your team first.
You scoffed at any mention of winning the Heisman Trophy. You made it clear you were only interested in winning football games.
Don't change, Broadway Geno.
I understand the past couple of months were difficult, possibly exasperating, for someone with such high expectations.
You went from being the projected No. 1 overall pick in the draft, to having your game being scrutinized and dissected in a scathing Pro Football Weekly scouting report, to a national television audience witnessing your precipitous free-fall into the second round.
It was painful to watch, so I can only imagine how you felt. It must have been gut-wrenching.
However, your emotional response to not being selected in the first round made people wonder if you have the necessities to become a starting quarterback in the NFL. You indicated you wouldn't return for the second round, only to change your mind and show up.
NFL teams have missed on plenty of talented quarterbacks who weren't first-round picks.
A year ago, Russell Wilson — you may have heard of him — went in the third round.
Will you outdo Wilson's rookie season at Seattle? Will you even play as a rookie?
You made similar foot-in-mouth responses during your senior year at West Virginia that can't be repeated.
When reporters covering the Mountaineers repeatedly pressed you about being a running quarterback, you said you were a pocket quarterback.
Weeks later, after young NFL QBs Robert Griffin III and Colin Kaepernick popularized the read-option, you said you could run any offense.
Will the real Broadway Geno Smith please stand up?
Who could forget your famous exchange with WVU coach Dana Holgorsen following a terrible 49-14 loss at Texas Tech? It was the first indication that there were cracks in your game.
When reporters told you that Holgorsen highlighted your struggles throwing in windy conditions, you said whoever made that statement didn't know anything about football.
Why, Broadway Geno, why?
Never throw your coach under the bus, even if you believe he's trying to do the same to you.
You played poorly against Texas Tech. So did your defense. But as the leading Heisman candidate at the time, you picked the wrong day to play a bad game.
Repeat after me: Jets coach Rex Ryan is your friend. He needs you to do well to keep his job.
And never forget: It's always the quarterback's fault. Ask current Jets QB Mark Sanchez, who may not be your teammate for long.
Being a successful quarterback in New York involves more than football. It's also about how well you can handle the pressure that accompanies the position.
Catchy nicknames like Broadway Geno are great for the ego, but never lose sight of who you really are.