NEW YORK (AP) Geno Smith still thinks of himself as the New York Jets’ starting quarterback.
Until he’s told otherwise.
Smith’s up-and-down rookie season ended with four solid games as the Jets finished 8-8, but out of the playoffs. Both coach Rex Ryan and general manager John Idzik have said that while Smith improved greatly, they will wait until they see who’s on the roster in a few months before considering their starters at any position.
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”It motivates me,” Smith told The Associated Press on Friday. ”I know Rex, and he knows how to push my buttons. I’m definitely going to go into this season as I always do: with a chip on my shoulder with that edge.”
Smith was in midtown Manhattan serving fans from an ice cream truck as part of a promotional event for New Era caps – a few hours after Ryan did the same.
Smith, who had 12 touchdown passes and 21 interceptions, is expected to be in the quarterback mix whether the Jets sign a veteran or draft someone to compete with him. But, it appears he didn’t do enough for the Jets to anoint him the starter as they head into the offseason.
”I’ve gotten better, but I’ve got a long ways to go,” Smith acknowledged. ”I’ve got to continue to progress and I’m going to take this year just as I took last year, and that’s to try to get better every single day.”
Smith declined to comment on his recent off-field issues, which included a disagreement with a flight attendant at Los Angeles International airport, for which Virgin America airline later apologized.
”Nah, we’re not talking about that stuff,” he said.
Taking a quick break from handing out ice cream cones on Super Bowl Boulevard in Times Square, Smith talked about how much he enjoyed seeing the area jam-packed with football fans getting ready for the NFL’s biggest game Sunday at MetLife Stadium. It also reminded him of his ultimate goal on the field.
”Just being here and being around this atmosphere has definitely made me even more hungry,” he said. ”Just to get into this position has been something I’ve been longing for my entire life, so I just want to work toward it.”
Smith started all 16 games for the Jets after claiming the job once Mark Sanchez went down for the season with a shoulder injury in the preseason.
There were flashes from Smith at times, particularly with four winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime of the Jets’ first seven games.
But there were also troubling stretches, such as the seven-game stretch midway through the season in which he had one touchdown pass and 11 interceptions.
While Smith insisted ”I don’t do grades,” he said he learned a lot on the job – a crash course in life in the NFL that not many rookie quarterbacks get to experience.
”It was very valuable, man,” Smith said. ”Not only from the standpoint of being on the field, but off the field. All the emotions I had to go through and all the good and bad things I had to go through, and ultimately, it strengthened me.
”It made me a better player and made me a better person off the field.”