New Jets QB Geno Smith will face much tougher obstacles in New York

Jason Cole
Yahoo! Sports

NEW YORK – It would have been understandable if Geno Smith had left New York after this year's NFL draft and never wanted to come back.

Now, he gets to call it home.

And while there is a question about how long he'll share his new residence with fellow quarterback Mark Sanchez, there is a bigger question about whether he can handle the scrutiny of New York.

This is, after all, a guy who almost ran away from the moment after falling out of the first round on Thursday night. He returned Friday after being encouraged by friends and getting a text message from Aaron Rodgers to stand up to the moment. It's no small coincidence that Rodgers once endured a similar fall, yet Friday became the highest-paid player in the NFL when he signed a contract extension with Green Bay.

While Smith, who wore clothes his mother bought for him earlier in the day after his stay in New York went longer than expected, eventually returned, the NFL doesn't always afford people an opportunity to think through their options.

[Related: Jets to consider releasing Mark Sanchez]

As New York's own Billy Joel once sang years ago, get it right the first time.

Smith's fall in draft status started here in December when he performed poorly in the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium. West Virginia was overwhelmed in that game by Syracuse as Smith faded in the snowy conditions.

On Friday, Smith said he was encouraged to stay after initially telling ESPN Thursday night that he wouldn't return.

"Just talking to all my supporters and everyone who had watched the draft and everyone from my high school and my university and everyone just wanted me to remain here and to walk across that stage and to stand up and represent them all," Smith said.

Later in the conversation, Smith tried to explain that he intended to stay all along. He then tried to say that he wouldn't use this moment of embarrassment as motivation. As he walked across the stage, he didn't initially smile at NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, holding off a grin for a few moments.

"It's not that I don't smile. It's just that I kind of took that to heart, the things that happened [Friday]," Smith said. "But I'm not going to sit here and say it's something that I'll use as fuel or extra motivation because I'm already motivated."

[Related: Geno Smith predicts playoffs after being drafted by Jets]

Later, Smith suggested there was "nothing negative" about his draft experience. It all came off a bit scripted in a business that doesn't always run by script. Truth is, Smith is like most athletes who feed off the negativity of critics. Tell a great athlete he can't do something, and you see the full force of motivation.

Smith certainly showed that earlier in the week with a tweet directed at those very critics. On Tuesday, Smith wrote on Twitter: "Just want to thank all those so called 'experts' who say I can't be an NFL QB. Thursday will be a special day but the work has only begun."

So the question becomes whether Smith understands his own emotions. Sure, he's just a young man dealing with a bad moment, but the life of a quarterback is filled with plenty of bad as you try to get to the good.

"That's the NFL and that's the position of quarterback … I've played this position all my life, and I understand that it comes with the territory, and I'm prepared for it," Smith said.

Fact is, Thursday was still a special day. It was his mother's birthday, but the event was tinged with frustration as Smith went all night without his name being called.

Whether Smith uses that as motivation remains to be seen. Whether he can handle the inevitable criticism that goes with playing in New York is an even bigger issue.

In the meantime, the Jets may at least try to simplify the situation. Shortly after Smith was drafted, ESPN reported that the Jets may cut Sanchez, swallowing the $8.25 million he is guaranteed this season.

For the Jets, that would be smart. It would eliminate distraction and move the team forward in the rebuilding process. There is no reason to waste another season with Sanchez when it's clear the team is moving on to Smith.

Even if the Jets made Smith wait an extra day to get to him.


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