The Big Apple it is for Geno

  • By John Antonik
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  • April 26, 2013 07:38 PM
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Geno Smith was widely regarded as the top quarterback in this year’s NFL draft. It just took an extra day for NFL teams to figure that out.

One night after Smith endured an agonizing four-hour wait at Radio City Music Hall in New York City watching teams choose other players, his name was finally called in the second round by the New York Jets with the 39th overall selection on Friday night.

Not Buffalo, not Cleveland, not Jacksonville, but NEW YORK!

“Oh my lord, and (Tim) Tebow is still on the roster,” said NFL Network’s Rich Eisen. “Let the good times roll, baby!”

"We drafted Geno Smith because he has exceptional talent," said Jets general manager John Idzik. "Let's get him into a situation where we can help him develop that and let's see where he goes."

In the days leading up to the draft, nearly every promo the NFL Network and ESPN ran for this year’s event included mention of Smith as the No. 1 quarterback, and all day leading up to the resumption of the tonight’s selections pundits and experts offered their opinions on why Smith dropped out of the first round.

The likely places where teams were looking for quarterbacks in the first round - Jacksonville, Philadelphia, Cleveland, New York, Oakland and Buffalo - each took a pass on Smith.

The Bills actually had an opportunity to select Smith, trading down for the 16th pick, but they opted instead to draft Florida State’s E. J. Manuel - the lone quarterback chosen on Thursday night. The Bills also passed on Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib despite Buffalo's Doug Marrone coaching him in college.

Tonight, although his wallet may be a little bit lighter, Smith’s professional career begins with an organization that may or may not be looking for immediate quarterback help, but Smith certainly has the credentials to make things interesting in a place that has never been lacking for drama.

“It was tough,” Smith told the NFL Network of his two-day wait. “I’m here today because of what I’ve withstood. I’m just proud to be a Jet. It’s a dream come true for me to finally live out my dream and the work is just beginning for me.”

Smith considered returning to Miami to watch tonight’s selections but he choose to remain in New York and return to the place where he spent one of the most agonizing nights of his young life.

“The importance for me to stay was, first of all, because a lot of family and a lot of people have stood behind me and have supported me my entire career,” said Smith. “I just wanted to stay here and represent all of them on this stage here today.”

The holder of almost every game, season and career passing record at West Virginia University, Smith ended his four-year career with more than 11,000 yards and 98 touchdown passes, including 42 during his senior season in 2012.

Smith completed 71.2 percent of his passes against just six interceptions in 2012 while producing back-to-back 4,000-yard campaigns for the first time in school history. During his final two years playing for coach Dana Holgorsen, Smith threw for more than 8,500 yards and 73 touchdowns.

His best afternoon as a collegian came against Baylor last September when he threw for a ridiculous 656 yards and eight touchdowns during West Virginia’s 70-63 victory over the Bears. Smith was also the MVP of the 2012 Orange Bowl when he passed for 407 yards and six touchdowns in West Virginia’s 70-33 win over Clemson.

“Geno Smith does an awful lot of good things,” said NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock, a frequent critic of Smith. “I said yesterday that he has components of a franchise quarterback here, I just don’t see it enough.”

After spending a season as Jarrett Brown’s backup in 2009, Smith became a starter as a sophomore in 2010 for the late Bill Stewart when he passed for 2,763 yards and 24 touchdowns in leading the Mountaineers to the Champ Sports Bowl.

During his four-year college career, Smith never completed less than 64 percent of his pass attempts and has never thrown more than seven interceptions in any year. His 98-21 career touchdown-to-interception ratio is perhaps his most impressive statistic.

The NFL has had many success stories with quarterbacks that failed to get picked in the first round - most notably second-rounders Brett Favre (1991) and Drew Brees (2001), third-round picks Joe Montana (1979) and Russell Wilson (2012), fourth-round choice Joe Theisman (1971) and sixth-round selection Tom Brady (2000). West Virginia quarterback Marc Bulger, a two-time Pro Bowl selection, also lasted until the sixth round in 2000.

Smith becomes the seventh Mountaineer quarterback drafted, and the first since the Miami Dolphins picked Pat White in 2009. Smith, White and Oliver Luck (1982) are each second-round choices – Luck and White both going with the 44th overall pick.

“When I look at him, to be brutally honest, I think (Smith) fell to about where he should have gone based on what his tape tells me,” said Mayock. “There are four or five games that are not even worthy of a fifth-round grade, and there are other games where you go, wow, that’s a first-round player. To me, I don’t think you can hand him the keys (to the franchise).”

So, is Smith ready to be thrown into the Big Apple frenzy competing with Mark Sanchez for the Jets starting quarterback job – and with Tim Tebow and David Garrard still on the roster?

“I’m ready to go in there and try and win a starting job,” said Smith.

"What this means for Mark Sanchez is competition, and Mark is open to that," Idzik said. "We've had discussions about that, and I think he buys into the fact that that helps him and it helps any player on our team, and as a result, it helps our team."

Yesterday, teammate Tavon Austin was the eighth overall choice by the St. Louis Rams, becoming the 10th player in WVU history to be picked in the first round.

Teammate Stedman Bailey is also expected to go in either the third round tonight or fourth round tomorrow. The NFL draft concludes on Saturday.

West Virginia Quarterbacks in the NFL Draft
2013, Geno Smith (2nd), New York Jets
2009, Pat White (2nd), Miami Dolphins
2000, Marc Bulger (6th), New Orleans Saints
1990, Major Harris (12th), Los Angeles Raiders
1984, Jeff Hostetler (3rd), New York Giants
1982, Oliver Luck (2nd), Houston Oilers
1956, Fred Wyant (3rd), Washington Redskins

* Rasheed Marshall was drafted in 2005 as a wide receiver


Geno Smith, 2013 NFL Draft, New York Jets, West Virginia Mountaineers, WVU