Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NFL [Print without images]

Friday, May 3, 2013
Geno Smith's maturity questioned

By Rich Cimini
ESPNNewYork.com

One week removed from his infamous draft-day slide, New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith has remained in the spotlight for all of the wrong reasons.

Smith's behavior before, during and after the draft has raised questions about his maturity, according to NFL talent evaluators. It also may have cost him money, approximately $3 million a year.

At least one quarterback-needy team in the top 10 passed on him because of the diva attitude he displayed in a pre-draft visit, according to a league source.

He's going to have a tough time in New York. Right now, he's coming off as a spoiled, pampered brat.

-- NFC scout, speaking on the condition of anonymity

After falling out of the first round, the former West Virginia star threatened to leave the draft and go home. He dropped to the second round and responded by firing his agents, sparking another firestorm of criticism.

"He's going to have a tough time in New York," an NFC scout said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "Right now, he's coming off as a spoiled, pampered brat."

Leading into the draft, word spread that Smith was preoccupied with his cell phone during pre-draft visits, texting friends and checking Twitter during meetings with team officials, as first reported by Yahoo! Sports.

In the NFL, a team visit is akin to a job interview. An aloof prospect is a major turnoff.

A league source confirmed the report. In fact, an official from one team -- not a team that visited with Smith -- said the cell-phone episode was mentioned and discussed in its draft room while evaluating Smith.

That same team rated Smith the top quarterback in the draft, but assigned him only a second-round grade.

Initially, the Jets had some doubts about Smith. They met with him at the scouting combine in February and weren't blown away, according to a source.

They gave him the benefit of the doubt, chalking it up to interview fatigue. The combine can be taxing for the top prospects, all of whom are swamped with team interviews, one after another.

The Jets met again with Smith on the eve of his pro-day workout in Morgantown, W. Va., and they came away "raving" about him, a source said. They also flew him to Florham Park, N.J., to meet with him at their facility.

"We've visited him, we went out to dinner with him, we brought him to New York, we went to his pro day, we've watched him play, we've been on his campus," general manager John Idzik said. "So we did our homework on Geno and we got a real good feel for him."

Coincidentally, the team parted ways this week with the scout who did the most homework on Smith -- assistant director of college scouting Michael Davis, whose contract wasn't renewed. West Virginia was one of the schools in his territory.

Smith's bad publicity started before the draft, when Pro Football Weekly trashed him in its annual draft guide. Its scouting report questioned his work ethic and leadership skills, saying "he's not a student of the game ... and doesn't command respect from teammates."

Smith still was regarded as a possible top-10 pick. The Jets passed on him at No. 9, and again at 13, before selecting him with the 39th pick.

He will sign a four-year contract for roughly $4.99 million, the amount of last year's 39th choice, St. Louis Rams cornerback Janoris Jenkins. If he had been in the heart of the top 10, he would be making more than $4 million per year.

The fall, he said, was "hard to stomach." Smith claimed his decision to fire his agents, Erik Burkhardt and Jeff Nalley of the Select Sports Group, wasn't directly related to the plummet. But it sent a bad message to NFL types.

"One of his perceived weaknesses is working through adversity," an AFC personnel executive said after the news broke that Smith was changing agents.

Smith couldn't be reached for comment. He was asked about the criticism the day after he was selected by the Jets. That was before he fired his agents and before information emerged regarding his pre-draft visits.

"My character and my play speaks for itself," he said. "The people who've known me my entire life, and who have coached me, have all come to my defense. As far as that goes, I'm just looking towards the future and really not worrying about the past."

Smith received a playbook immediately after being picked and he will return May 10 for the team's rookie minicamp, where the spotlight will be focused on him. He's in a five-way competition for the starting job, with the incumbent -- the embattled Mark Sanchez -- basically saying he won't let a rookie take his job.

"I'll help him out as much as I can," Sanchez said. "But when we have to compete, we have to compete. That's the way it goes."