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Saturday, April 27, 2013
Geno Smith excited to compete

By Rich Cimini
ESPNNewYork.com

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Geno Smith went from the green room to a green room, telling a news conference Saturday at the New York Jets' facility that he's ready to forget his agonizing two-day wait at the draft.

"It was hard to stomach," the former West Virginia star said.

The Jets welcomed Mark Sanchez's potential successor, making it clear they have no intention of bringing him along slowly. They picked him in the second round, 39th overall, with the belief that he will compete immediately for the starting job.

Geno Smith
The Jets picked Geno Smith in the second round, with the 39th overall selection.

"Our goal is, 'Hey, let's see how fast we can do this thing and get you ready to go, so you can function at a high level,'" offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said.

Smith received a playbook, spoke briefly with coaches and team officials and will return in two weeks for the rookie minicamp. He's one of six quarterbacks on the roster, although Sanchez and Tim Tebow are on shaky ground and could be released.

Mornhinweg spoke with Sanchez throughout the day Friday, indicating the embattled quarterback isn't opposed to an open competition. Sanchez, however, hasn't commented on the team's blockbuster decision to draft Smith.

"He understands this is a competition now, so let's rock and roll," Mornhinweg said. "Here, we have four -- even more, maybe six -- and I hope they're all thinking, 'Hey, I have an opportunity to go win a job.'"

By training camp, it could be Smith versus veteran journeyman David Garrard, who has the make-up to be an ideal mentor. Smith was careful not to insult his elders on the depth chart, but his confidence was apparent.

"My goal is to be a franchise quarterback," he said. "But, as of now, there's a lot of work to be done."

Smith faces a difficult transition, trying to grasp Mornhinweg's West Coast system after two years in West Virginia's spread attack. He played in the shotgun, not under center. The footwork required of a quarterback in the West Coast offense is highly sophisticated.

Critics blasted Smith for being a product of his college system.

He threw 177 of his 518 passes at or behind the line of scrimmage in 2012, including 112 screen passes. As a result, Smith's average pass traveled 7.7 yards past the line, the fewest yards per attempt of any top quarterback prospect, according to ESPN Stats & Information. That contributed to his unusually high completion percentage, 71.6.

Smith fumbled 32 times in his career, perhaps because he has small hands. More fodder for the critics.

"You know what? Critics don't have a pick," said Smith, who put up video-game numbers last season -- 42 touchdown passes and only six interceptions.

Smith said he doesn't anticipate any problems making the adjustment. The Jets did a lot of homework on him, coming away with the impression that he's "a football junkie," area scout Michael Davis said.

Davis, Mornhinweg and top scout Terry Bradway had dinner with Smith on the eve of his pro day last month, and they were impressed with his overall knowledge.

"He knew the history of football," Davis said.

Four years ago, Sanchez aced his interview with team personnel, one of the reasons why they drafted him. The Jets felt he had the mental toughness to handle the New York pressure -- and he excelled for two years. But Sanchez has regressed, resulting in the additions of Garrard and Smith.

The Jets' depth chart is a punch line. Mornhinweg acknowledged it's too crowded, admitting it'll be hard to divide the reps in the upcoming OTA practices and minicamp.

"You give up just a little bit, doing it that way," he said, adding that three is a manageable number for a training-camp competition.

Smith, 22, claimed "my best football is far ahead of me." Not too far ahead, the Jets hope. Frustrated by Sanchez's turnovers (52 in the last two seasons), their front office wants a fresh start.

"I don't know what the plan is going ahead," Smith said, "but I'm here to compete."