Jets’ Mornhinweg: Geno can be ‘a really good one’
Marty Mornhinweg knows a few things about developing NFL
After all, he’s been around Brett Favre, Jeff Garcia and Michael
Vick, to name a few. And, the New York Jets’ offensive coordinator
sees promise in Geno Smith, despite the rookie’s struggles this
”I don’t think there’s any question,” Mornhinweg said
Thursday. ”I’m even more certain now than I was earlier that he
could be a really good one.”
That might seem to some a curious statement, considering the ups
and downs Smith has had and the uncertainty as to whether he could
be the Jets’ quarterback of the future. But to Mornhinweg, Smith
has the skillset to improve in a big way.
”He’s got skill and ability,” Mornhinweg said. ”He’s a bright
young man. We’ve talked about this before, but he’s got instincts.
So he’s got a lot of things, really good things, and they show.
Now, from afar or if you’re not really in it, it’s probably hard to
see the great progress.
”He’s certainly progressed,” Mornhinweg added.
The numbers don’t necessarily bear that out, especially with
Smith’s 21 interceptions ranking him second only to the 25 thrown
by the Giants’ Eli Manning for most in the league. His 62.9 rating
is also lowest among starting quarterbacks, impacted largely by a
brutal seven-game stretch in which he had just one touchdown pass
and 11 interceptions.
Smith, who has 10 touchdown passes overall, has just two games
in which he hasn’t been picked off at least once.
”He, as a quarterback, has taken some pretty good steps forward
and then we’ve taken some steps back and then taken some steps
forward,” Mornhinweg said. ”I felt like we had to restart almost
a few weeks back.”
That’s when Smith was benched in favor of backup Matt Simms, and
some fans and media clamored to have Simms get a shot at the
starting job. Instead, Mornhinweg and coach Rex Ryan stuck with
Smith, wanting to see the rookie try to climb out of the hole he
He has, in fact, played better the last few weeks, throwing for
386 yards with two TDs and two INTs, while also rushing for 94
yards and a score on 11 carries.
”Everybody progresses at a different rate at really all
positions, but particular the quarterback,” Mornhinweg said.
”There’s a select few who come in seamlessly and are on,
typically, fantastic football teams, these types of things. And
there are others that, man alive, it might take a year or two.
”Shoot, there have been some really good quarterbacks where
it’s taken longer than that.”
In other words, sometimes the team gets better as the
quarterback gets better and progresses.
”And you’ve got something special,” Mornhinweg said. ”So,
that’s sort of my vision on that type of thing.”
The Jets will have to make a decision as to whether they’ll go
into next season with Smith in mind as their starter for the
present, or if they’ll look elsewhere. It’s likely New York will
either pursue a proven veteran or look at drafting a quarterback in
the first round to compete with Smith next summer.
”I’m not focused on next year,” Smith said. ”I have a game
coming up this Sunday and that’s more important than anything
outside of what I’m focused on.”
Smith, a second-round pick, was thrust into the job after Mark
Sanchez went down during the preseason with a season-ending
shoulder injury. It appeared to many that Sanchez was ahead in the
competition, but it all became moot when he was hurt.
So, Smith has had to learn on the job, and it has had
predictably inconsistent results. Smith became the first
quarterback since the 1970 merger to lead four winning drives in
the fourth quarter or overtime in his first seven games. He also
broke Sanchez’s record for yards passing by a rookie.
The miscues and constant criticisms – he locks on receivers too
much, he can’t read defenses good enough, and so on – are the
counterpoints the Jets will need to consider in the next several
But Smith believes he is continuing to get better, and refuses
to dwell on the mistakes he has made or what people’s opinions of
him might be.
”That’s pretty much the goal every single day, to go out and
try to improve in some way, shape or form,” he said. ”I’ve been
trying to do that every single game, every single day in practice.
It’s been working for me, I’ve shown progress. That’s something
that’s a good sign.
”But I have to keep climbing and not focus on where I am now,
but where I want to be in the future,” he said.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org