Jets QB Geno Smith is angry, but eager to resurrect hard-luck career

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Unlike the infamous punch to the jaw last August, Geno Smith saw this one coming. He knew he'd lose his place atop the quarterback depth chart as soon as Ryan Fitzpatrick walked in the door.

The inevitable happened Wednesday night, putting Smith in a "pissed off" mood. He's competitive and human, so you'd expect him to react that way. After absorbing the news, Smith looked at the big picture.

Not only is he playing for the New York Jets in 2016, he's playing for his future in the NFL.

In a candid interview with reporters at training camp, Smith acknowledged the business aspect to his current plight. If he wants to resurrect his career, probably for another team in 2017, he needs to be the good soldier in this situation.

"It's no disrespect to anyone, but I'm auditioning for this team and 31 other teams in the NFL," Smith said Thursday. "The way you handle all of this says a lot about your character. I've got little kids back home [in South Florida] seeing how I react. Everyone will watch to see how I react. I'm not going to allow this situation -- because it's not the worst situation I've been in -- to deter me from my ultimate goal."

Give Smith credit for demonstrating a mature attitude. He said all the right things, supporting Fitzpatrick while expressing how badly he wants to be on the field. It was the correct approach, probably the only approach. The other option? He could've pulled a Nick Foles and requested his release, but that wouldn't have been a good look. He hasn't done enough in the league to complain -- a quarterback with 35 interceptions in 29 career starts shouldn't be trying to shoot his way out of town.

Smith knows the deal. He has to suck it up for another year, doing anything he can to increase his value by the time he hits free agency next winter.

"There are a lot of things I have to put on tape for a lot of people," he said.

The last 12 months haven't been kind to Smith. On Aug. 11, 2015, everything changed in a nanosecond during a locker-room altercation with teammate IK Enemkpali. He suffered a broken jaw and lost his starting job to Fitzpatrick, who went on to have a storybook season. Smith might have lost the job anyway at some point, but we'll never know. To say it was a career-altering moment would be an understatement.

From the Jets' perspective, there's a significant gap between the two quarterbacks. If they felt comfortable with Smith as the starter, they would have given Fitzpatrick a deadline months ago, not Wednesday afternoon. That's the cold reality.

There's no confusion about the pecking order at quarterback: It's Fitzpatrick, Smith, Bryce Petty and rookie Christian Hackenberg, according to coach Todd Bowles. The only way Smith can lose the No. 2 job is if "Bryce and Hack have some great games and they come along like gangbusters" in the preseason, Bowles said. That's unlikely to happen.

Smith didn't lose the No. 1 job when Fitzpatrick signed. The only thing he lost was an opportunity.

"I'm not disappointed. I'm kind of pissed off, but it's not a detrimental thing," he said. "It's not something where I'm pissed off at anyone, because we all want to be in there. ... This just adds fuel to the fire, but not in a negative way.

"I don't want to be a headline because it's not what I'm trying to say. It's more as a competitor, as a quarterback, knowing what I'm capable of and really believing in myself, knowing the work I put in. You want to be out there, but you have to play with the cards you're dealt."

Wide receiver Brandon Marshall, who considers himself a big brother to Smith, pulled him aside for a heart-to-heart.

"As a competitor, I would be crushed, because I want to be on the field,” Marshall said. “I love Geno. When this kid gets an opportunity, he’s not going to look back and he’s not going to let it go.”

Smith was erratic in 2013 and 2014, but he's only 25 years old and his right arm is good enough to play in the NFL. But it takes more than an arm, and the league-wide take on Smith is that he's turnover-prone, moody and doesn't respond well to adversity.

He can change some of the perception by being a good teammate through a tough situation. He's off to a promising start.