The comparison is inevitable, and Geno Smith doesn’t like it one bit.
Sure, Smith’s overall statistics — eight touchdowns and 16 interceptions — are eerily similar to Mark Sanchez’s numbers (10 TDs, 16 INTs) through his first 10 games with the New York Jets. That team started 4-6 in 2009, one game worse than this year’s squad, and made a stunning run to the AFC title game.
None of that, insisted the rookie quarterback, means anything.
”No, I’m not Mark,” Smith said this week. ”I don’t think it’s fair to compare his season to mine. It’s two different seasons, two different guys, two different players, two different styles, two different systems.
”I know you guys want to compare every single thing, but it doesn’t make a difference.”
Truth is, Smith is struggling so much that some think it might be time for him to sit for a start in favor of inexperienced backup Matt Simms.
It won’t happen this week, though. Rex Ryan said Smith will remain the starting quarterback — for at least the game at Baltimore.
”The young man’s resilient,” Ryan said. ”I don’t think there’s any doubt.”
Smith needs a big bounceback game or he could perhaps see the bench, as he did at the end of last Sunday’s 37-14 loss at Buffalo.
”I think the more you think about it, the worse you’ll do,” Smith said of trying not to press. ”The best thing for me to do is just wipe it out of my mind, just play with a clean slate. I pretty much do that every week.”
Smith has been lauded by his coaches and teammates throughout the season for remaining even-keeled in the face of success or adversity. He is well aware, though, that he is costing the Jets lately. Smith has one touchdown and eight interceptions in his past five games, and his 20 turnovers lead the NFL.
”I’m not out there thinking about what happened three or four weeks ago when I’m playing,” he said. ”But when you make mistakes over and over that can accumulate and we can start talking about where you were headed Week 3 and how you’re doing, you want to see progress. So in that area, I just have to continue to work at it.
”I know it’s going to get better.”
Smith’s comments can almost give fans a case of deja vu. They heard similar things from Sanchez in 2009, when he finished with 12 touchdowns and 20 interceptions. There are, however, several differences in the two quarterbacks’ situations as rookies:
—Sanchez was considered a franchise quarterback from Day 1, when the Jets traded up to grab him at No. 5 overall in the draft. Smith was a second-round pick, and the third player New York drafted. He’s never been deemed the team’s future at the position.
—Sanchez was surrounded by playmakers as a rookie with Braylon Edwards, Jerricho Cotchery, Thomas Jones, Leon Washington, Dustin Keller and Shonn Greene all in the offense. Smith’s receivers have been banged-up all season and he has been under lots of pressure behind an inconsistent line.
—Sanchez was often considered just a piece of the overall puzzle as a rookie, something the Jets have said of Smith, too. But Smith has found himself trying to make plays to make up for some deficiencies. He has already led four fourth-quarter or overtime winning drives. Smith also has 31 throws of 20 or more yards; Sanchez had 34 during his entire first NFL regular season.
”Definitely a playmaker,” Ravens linebacker Daryl Smith said. ”He has the ability to run around and make plays with his legs, and he can definitely make some good throws, too. So, if you’ve got a guy like that, we’ve got to definitely keep him in the pocket, try to stop the run and try to make them one dimensional. Just try to put it all on him to beat us.”
Ryan entertained the idea Monday of possibly giving Simms a few first-team snaps, but didn’t want to discuss reps on Wednesday.
”I certainly let him know that we have to protect the football better,” Ryan said of Smith. ”If the guy’s there, get him the ball. If he’s not, we’ve got to find (somebody else). We can’t force the issue.”
Smith knows that, and being able to rebound Sunday could make all the difference at Baltimore.
”You can’t be a sitting duck in the pocket,” Smith said. ”Usually I’m good with that, but I think the last game I did a terrible job of moving. I didn’t help my offensive line out much. Basically, I’ve just got to get back to playing the game freely, but at the same time, taking care of the ball.”