Ex-West Virginia star Geno Smith strives to be 'franchise QB' for Jets
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Geno Smith has put that agonizingly long wait in the green room at the NFL Draft far behind him.
He's got better things to think about now. And, the New York Jets' second-round pick sure has his sights set pretty high.
“My goal is to be a franchise quarterback,” the former West Virginia quarterback said. “But as of now, there's lots of work to be done.”
The Jets certainly would like to see that happen soon, especially since it appears the last player they drafted expecting to assume that label — Mark Sanchez — has struggled mightily the last two seasons and could be on his way out.
New York drafted its quarterback of the future Friday night, stunning many who thought the Jets might go with Sanchez and David Garrard in training camp and play out the season. With Smith suddenly in the mix, the future could be now.
“My job is to compete,” Smith said at his introductory news conference at the team's practice facility.
Smith might be in line already to start, even though the Jets have six quarterbacks on the roster with Smith, Sanchez, Garrard, Tim Tebow, Greg McElroy and Matt Simms.
But soon, Tebow and/or Sanchez could be gone.
Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said he has spoken to Sanchez about the team's decision to draft Smith — and, in effect, putting his job and spot on the Jets' roster in jeopardy.
Smith, who hadn't heard from any of the team's other quarterbacks yet, impressed Mornhinweg at dinner the night before his pro day a few weeks ago — and then again on the field throwing the ball around. He raved to coach Rex Ryan and general manager John Idzik about his time with Smith, and it appeared there would be a chance the Jets would go after him in the first round.
Instead, New York went with cornerback Dee Milliner at No. 9 and then defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson at No. 13.
“I got word that it was between Sheldon and myself,” Smith said. “But they chose Sheldon, and he's actually a good friend of mine, so I was happy for him.”
After slipping past the Jets, Smith continued to fall through the opening round and wasn't happy about it. TV cameras caught him scowling, appearing frustrated and embarrassed as one name after another was called — and not his.
“It was kind of tough to stomach,” he said.
He considered going home the next morning, but decided to return to Radio City Music Hall and wait until he was finally drafted.
“The main reason for coming back was, I came out the first day to represent my university and my family, and I didn't want the perception to be made that I'm bitter I wasn't selected in the first round and let all those people down who support me,” Smith said.
Smith, who owns almost all of WVU's passing records, gets rid of the ball quickly, can make completions on the run and is capable of making big plays — something the Jets sorely lacked last season.
He threw for 11,662 yards, 98 touchdowns and only 21 interceptions in four years at WVU.
But there were still some reservations about Smith being an elite-type quarterback who could carry a franchise.
He had some accuracy problems and also fumbled the ball an alarming 32 times.
“We don't care about anybody else's evaluations,” Mornhinweg said. “We only care about ours.”
Smith was equally resolute: “You know what,” he said, “critics don't have a pick.”