Being sacked won’t sting Geno Smith nearly as much as the beating he has taken by the media since he was drafted by the New York Jets.
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The quarterback was criticized for saying the 2013 Jets would make the playoffs, which seems highly improbable for a franchise in rebuilding mode.
There were reports Smith was prepared to leave draft festivities in New York City last month after he wasn’t chosen on the opening day. Smith stayed — a decision he and his family claimed was always the plan, even with the disappointment of not being a first-round selection.
Smith fired his agents shortly after the draft, triggering another round of stories about his motives. He was knocked for the disconnected way he allegedly conducted himself during pre-draft team interviews, which may have contributed to his slide into the second round.
The word “diva” was even being tossed around about a player who had received positive reviews for his leadership skills at West Virginia.
Smith says that he stands by his playoff prediction and that none of those media claims “drove him nuts.” Smith, though, believes the reports were “inaccurate.”
“From the standpoint of me being a diva, you talk to my teammates and coaches from Little League. Nobody will say that,” Smith told co-host Jim Miller and me Saturday on SiriusXM NFL Radio from the NFLPA’s Rookie Premiere event. “From the standpoint that I switched agents because of where I fell in the draft, I’m not naïve. I understand an agent can’t get you selected higher or lower. It’s based on what teams need and the decisions they make in the front office.
"Just the whole draft experience and everything that went down, I was supposed to be leaving the draft and all that stuff, that was inaccurate again. There were a lot of things that were said that were anonymous and inaccurate. But all that comes with (the territory). I’m built for it, so I’m not really worried about it.”
Smith has completed the interview process for new agent representation, and his decision “is pretty close.”
“I did some interviews with some really good candidates,” Smith said. “I’ve started making that decision in my head. Obviously, I had (Jets) camp, so I didn’t really worry about it. I have plenty of time. I don’t need to rush it. I’ve been talking things over with my family and advisers.”
The Jets have lost the services of two quarterbacks since Smith was drafted, which means he will likely be competing against Mark Sanchez for a starting spot. Tim Tebow was released, and David Garrard this week announced plans to retire because of a chronic knee problem.
Smith said Garrard was unable to practice last Monday at the team’s offseason workouts but was still on the field “coaching me and asking questions. That’s the type of guy he is.”
“When I was drafted, he reached out to me,” said Smith, who was surprised when learning of Garrard’s decision on Wednesday night.
“I told him I looked forward to learning from him. I am still looking forward to doing that. I’m going to call or text him if I have any questions. He’s been a great pro.”
Smith is in the process of trying to become the same. Besides learning a new scheme under offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, Smith must get accustomed to breaking an NFL huddle after calling plays at the line of scrimmage in college.
“To be in a new system and totally new environment with all new guys, I felt very comfortable,” Smith said of his first Jets practices. “I think that’s a testament to the preparation I put in prior to the minicamp. As soon as I was drafted that night, I went over to the facility, got my playbook and began studying it. I studied it for a whole week.
“I made sure I understood the key things for the most part — the protections, cadence, how to get in and out of the huddle, and started learning the concepts and getting that down more and more. That’s an ongoing process but I continue to study.”
Besides remaining in regular telephone contact with Mornhinweg and Jets quarterbacks coach David Lee, Smith already has started to try to bond with his teammates.
“When I got to rookie mini-camp, there’s a story about how when I got to the hotel that I saw a bunch of the offensive linemen and we all came together and went over the actions of an actual huddle and cadence at the line," Smith said. "When we got to practice — and coach Mornhinweg praised us for it – we didn’t have that many mental mistakes. Guys were on the same page, and were able to get in and out of the huddle at the right tempo and execute the plays.
"Obviously, there were some things we still needed to do better, but it was still overall a good camp.”
That’s something Smith can feel positive about after his rough media introduction into the NFL.
"It’s just eye-opening. It allows you to see exactly what business you’re in," Smith said. "I understand it’s part of my job to handle that. I’m going to take it in stride and do all the things that are necessary to make me and my team look good.”