FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Rex Ryan looks at Geno Smith and sees an improving player. Really, he does.
"I've seen him improve in a lot of areas," the New York Jets coach said Wednesday. "Statistically, it doesn't jump off the chart, but I know he's getting better. ... I think the young man has a very bright future."
No, the numbers don't jump off the chart. The rookie is the lowest-rated passer in the NFL with a 62.9 mark, but his coach noted four areas of specific improvement:
1. Accuracy: Smith has completed 58 percent of his attempts over the past two games, slightly higher than his season percentage (55).
2. Mobility: Ryan said Smith has "used his legs better than he has at any point." In fact, he has rushed for 94 yards and a touchdown in the past two games.
3. Footwork: This is hard to quantify. We'll have to take Ryan's word for it.
4. Ball security: Smith, who had fumbling issues early in the season (remember the Behind-the-Butt Fumble?), has gone three straight games without a fumble. But the interceptions remain a problem. He's up to 21, having thrown a pick in 12 of 14 games.
So, yes, Smith has taken some baby steps, but it's hard to describe him as an ascending player -- and that's a bit troubling. You figured that, after early-season growing pains, he'd be noticeably improved by this point. He suffered a brutal, three-game stretch recently that nearly cost him his job -- and, ultimately, may cost Ryan his job.
You hate to pin a team's failures on a rookie, but if Smith were playing better, it would increase Ryan's chances of returning in 2014. In that case, management would be less inclined to break up the Smith-Ryan-Marty Mornhinweg troika. But Smith isn't blowing anybody away.
Ryan sidestepped a question about whether Smith would benefit from another season with Mornhinweg as his coordinator. He said he didn't want to discuss anything beyond Sunday's game against the Cleveland Browns.
"I'd say he's probably got a bright future in front of him," Ryan said, "but that future needs to be Sunday."