<
>

Geno Smith's tenure with Jets was doomed from Day 1

The news that Geno Smith is finished for the season with a torn knee ligament essentially ends his run with the New York Jets. His four-year tenure won't be remembered fondly. There were too many turnovers and too many brush fires that raised questions about his character. Let it serve as a cautionary tale.

Let's call it, "How not to develop an NFL quarterback."

The previous regime did it all wrong with Smith, putting him in a tough situation and surrounding him with marginal talent.

In 2013, the Rex Ryan-John Idzik administration -- ready to move on from Mark Sanchez -- drafted Smith in the second round and immediately put him in a competition with Sanchez. It made no sense on so many levels.

Mentally, Smith wasn't ready for the NFL. The product of a gimmicky spread system at West Virginia, he needed at least a year to absorb a pro-style offense, but he was thrown into the fire when Sanchez suffered a season-ending injury in the preseason. There was no viable veteran on the roster, only Smith, who predictably became an interception machine.

Maybe it would've turned out differently if Smith had legitimate talent around him -- see: Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys -- but he was throwing to the likes of Jeremy Kerley, David Nelson, Kellen Winslow, Stephen Hill and a washed-up Santonio Holmes. Eric Decker helped matters in 2014, but it still was a bad offense.

Smith played for an offensive coordinator, Marty Mornhinweg, who clashed with Ryan behind the scenes, creating a toxic atmosphere. It's too bad because Smith has arm talent. In a stable, nurturing environment, he might have been able to develop into something. Current general manager Mike Maccagnan is doing it the right way with Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg, giving them the space to learn and mature before throwing them into the crucible of New York football.

But Smith doesn't get a free pass here. Oh, no. He's not an innocent victim because he has made plenty of mistakes along the way, demonstrating poor judgment at times on and off the field. There were plenty of red flags before the draft, but the Jets ignored them, perhaps blinded by their desperation to find a quarterback.

They should've gone with their first impression of Smith, who turned off team officials when they interviewed him at the scouting combine. They felt he was detached and aloof. They decided to give him another chance, so they took him to dinner on the eve of his campus pro day. This time, they came away with a better feeling about him.

Basically, Smith arrived amid a cloud of controversy. When he slipped out of the first round, he pouted and reportedly had to be talked into returning to the draft on Day 2. He fired his agents, hiring Roc Nation. That drew criticism because he seemed more concerned about his image than football.

"He's going to have a tough time in New York," an NFC scout told me after the draft. "Right now, he's coming off as a spoiled, pampered brat."

Smith's legacy in New York will beg this question: Was he just unlucky or did he bring it upon himself?

It wasn't his fault his jaw was broken by IK Enemkpali's fist, but a better leader could've resolved the dispute before it turned violent. It wasn't his fault his knee was wrecked Sunday by a Baltimore Ravens linebacker, but he put himself in a vulnerable position by holding the ball too long -- an old bugaboo.

"It sucks," Brandon Marshall said of Smith's season-ending injury. "It sucks for Geno and it sucks for our team."

Smith will try to resurrect his career next year in another city. New York has been a bad marriage. The organization failed him, and he failed himself.