There are ironies in life.
And then there is the situation in which Geno Smith finds himself.
Smith, once considered the quarterback savior for the Jets, is trying to land the job as the backup with the Giants. And he could be making a case for that job against his old team Saturday night.
“I knew that was coming,” Smith said, laughing, after practice Thursday when he was asked about facing the Jets. “It’s going to be an exciting game. Another opportunity to go out there and play with these guys on my new team and to really build ourselves up. Obviously, going against your old team, you may have a few emotions here and there, but I think I’ll be able to manage it well.”
Smith was a Jets’ second-round pick in 2013 and lasted four seasons. His run included the infamous broken jaw he sustained in 2015 when he was punched in the locker room by teammate IK Enemkpali. Recalling his favorite Jets moments, he mentioned locker-room camaraderie.
“I’ve got so many. Honestly, just being in the locker room with the guys. … All those guys on the team, guys who are still there [and] some guys who are gone,” Smith said. “We built some great bonds and became more than just teammates, we became friends. And I think that was something that’s really special.”
Fast-forward to 2017 and Smith hopes to become Eli Manning’s backup as Josh Johnson — who spent just more than a week with the Jets before the 2015 season — serves as competition. Smith admits feeling something to prove to his former team. But he’s not obsessed.
“You always have that mentality. You always want to go out there and prove yourself,” Smith said. “Nothing extra added towards them, though. I have a lot of great respect for a lot of people in that organization and I appreciated my time there, but now it’s just focusing on what we have to focus on, which is going out there and executing.”
And what Smith must focus on, what head coach Ben McAdoo demands, is limiting mistakes. In two preseason games, Smith has thrown two interceptions — not the way to impress your new employer.
“Taking care of the ball would be an important part of being on this team,” McAdoo said understatedly, before giving his assessment of Smith. “He is picking up the offense. He is working hard at it. He gets football. He throws a nice, catchable ball, he completes a lot of balls. So we just have to eliminate the negative plays.”
The Giants wide receivers are being held together with baling wire and duct tape. Despite the injuries to front-line receivers, McAdoo stressed the quarterbacks will be judged on their own performances and not what could have been with top-tier guys.
“They still have to go out and play. They have to trust the players that they are playing with. We will make adjustments with what we do in the game with players who haven’t been around here very long, but they will still have to go out and compete,” McAdoo said.
So while it may not exactly be the Subway Series, there is an extra feel to Giants-Jets, whether in November or August.
“I was actually part of the Jets’ team a couple of years ago when we played the Giants,” Johnson said. “The energy changed even when it was with them. … It’s not like just any other preseason game. We know we’re playing the New York Jets. This is the New York Giants, so it’s a big thing.
“You can see the excitement level [Smith] has. … He was there for a long time, so I would be shocked if he didn’t have anything extra added in this.”
Smith admitted he does. But it’s not just facing the Jets.
“That’s every player who steps on the field. If you don’t produce, you’re probably not going to have a job in this league,” Smith said. “It’s not really about the Jets. It’s more about me going out there and just continuing to get better and continuing to showcase my ability.”
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