It’s been four years since Geno Smith last started an NFL game. It’s been since the end of the 2014 season since Smith has started consecutive games while with the New York Jets.
Now with Russell Wilson set to miss several weeks recovering from finger surgery last week, Smith is getting the shot he’s been patiently awaiting for with the Seattle Seahawks.
In fact, patience is the one thing Smith points to as being the biggest differences for him from early in his career to now.
Smith lost his job as a starting quarterback with the Jets when his jaw was broken from a punch from teammate IK Enemkpali. When Smith was recovered from the injury, Ryan Fitzpatrick had taken the job and run with it. Smith has started just two games in the six seasons since. He’s sat behind durable starting quarterbacks in Eli Manning with the New York Giants, Philip Rivers with the Los Angeles Chargers and now Wilson in Seattle.
“I think the biggest growth came with just being patient,” Smith said on Thursday. “Knowing I have the capability to play in this league but not getting that opportunity for a number of years was a test for patience.”
That patience isn’t just in regards to biding his time for another chance either. It also refers to the way he’s learned to play the position on the field.
“I feel like when I was younger and coming out of college (at West Virginia), we put up so many points that I was so used to scoring all of the time so that was my mentality,” Smith said. “In the NFL, you aren’t going to score every time and that’s just the reality. I’m a lot more patient now with my reads and my footwork is the biggest difference maker to me. My footwork has gotten a lot better and I think it’s paying off in the game.”
In his final two seasons with the Mountaineers, Smith averaged over 37 points per game. Smith had a 73-13 touchdown-to-interception ratio over those two years, leading to his being an early second round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. It took Smith some time to realize it wouldn’t be so easy to score in the NFL.
Smith completed 10 of 17 passes for 131 yards with a touchdown and an interception in relief or Wilson last week against the Los Angeles Rams. He’s grateful for the chance to play with Seattle and try to keep the team afloat until Wilson can return next month.
“It means everything but it’s not about me, it’s about the team,” Smith said of the opportunity. “Going out there together all as one unit, the offense, defense, special teams, coaching staff, front office, and everybody. It’s about doing what’s best for the team. It’s not about me at all. Obviously, it’s a great opportunity but my mindset is focused on winning and doing what is best for the team.”