Geno Smith picks Jay-Z's agency
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- After weeks of speculation, rookie quarterback Geno Smith announced Wednesday that he has hired Jay-Z's Roc Nation Sports to represent him.
Smith, who created national headlines when he fired his original agents after falling out of the first round in last month's draft, hinted that the marketing appeal of Roc Nation Sports was a factor in his decision.
Four decades removed from Broadway Joe, the New York Jets have Madison Avenue Geno.
"When you talk about being in New York from a standpoint of what they can do in the city, the connections that they have, I think it's a good move," said Smith, claiming Jay-Z's presence wasn't the overriding reason for his selection.
Smith's choice is sure to spark criticism from those who believe he's too concerned about his image. His reputation took a beating before and after the draft, with media reports quoting unnamed personnel types that described him as a diva. He plummeted to the second round, which stunned Smith, who expected to be a top-10 pick.
Jets coach Rex Ryan said he's not concerned that his young quarterback is represented by a global rap mogul.
"I'm sure he's done a lot of work and preparation on who he thinks is the best person to represent him," Ryan said. "I don't think there will be a loss of focus or anything else. I can tell you this right now, he knows he has to focus on the job at hand. I'm confident that will happen. I don't even think about who represents him."
The West Virginia star interviewed several established agents after firing his original agency, Select Sports. A few days ago, he tweeted a photo of himself and Jay-Z, fueling speculation that Roc Nation Sports was the front-runner.
Just last week, Roc Nation Sports hired its first NFLPA-certified agent, Kim Miale. She has only two NFL clients -- both players are inactive -- but she will handle Smith's contract negotiations. He said he's not concerned about her lack of experience.
Smith insisted he's not about show business even though he hired a company that bills itself as a "full-service entertainment company," according to its website.
"I know this isn't because of an image thing or trying to market myself," Smith said. "It's just about being comfortable with the guys who are going to represent me. Ultimately, that's why I made the decision."
Asked if he's concerned about negative fallout, Smith said, "I don't worry about the outside world's perception when it comes to that stuff. I'm comfortable with who I am, I'm strong in my faith."
Smith became Roc Nation Sports' first NFL client. The agency represents New York Yankees star Robinson Cano and basketball star Skylar Diggins. The agency's website features profiles of all three athletes.
"I'm all about football," Smith said.
Smith has a chance to be the Week 1 starter, but he's engaged in a competition with embattled incumbent Mark Sanchez. On Wednesday, the team's second OTA practice, both quarterbacks struggled in team drills.
Sanchez, playing for his third coordinator in three years, completed only six of 11 passes, including three interceptions. It's far too early to make any definitive judgments, but some of the passes were eerily similar to his mistakes from the past. He was intercepted by backup nose tackle Damon Harrison on a screen pass.
"Of all people, Snacks," joked Sanchez, referring to Harrison's nickname. "It's your worst nightmare."
Ryan said Sanchez's three-interception day was "disappointing" and "unacceptable," but he tempered his criticism by saying Sanchez also "did a lot of good things." Ryan gave a similar assessment of Smith, saying he had "ups and downs." Clearly, ball security will be one of the deciding factors in the competition.
Sanchez worked with the first team, but he and Smith received virtually the same number of reps. Greg McElroy and Matt Simms picked up the scraps. Smith wasn't much better than Sanchez, completing only three of 10 passes with one interception -- a dropped pass that was deflected twice.
The Jets are learning Marty Morhinweg's West Coast system, and Sanchez admitted there are growing pains. Sanchez, who committed 26 turnovers in each of the past two seasons, is competing for his job for the first time since he won it as a rookie in 2009. He's due to make a guaranteed $8.25 million this year, about $3 million more than Smith will receive over the course of the four-year contract he will eventually sign.
"I've played long enough now where I don't worry about the quarterback on the other side of the field or a quarterback being in competition with you," he said. "It doesn't really bother me at all."
Sanchez believes "this coaching staff will get the best out of me." He has an ardent supporter in Joe Namath, who told reporters at a function in Manhattan that Sanchez will rebound in 2013.
"I promise you, you'll see a different guy," the Jets' legend said.
Namath, who watched Smith's games on TV, called the rookie a "sensational athlete, good size, [but] he's got to fill out a bit. He's a little bit lean to get out there with the big men.
"If Geno beats [Sanchez] out at training camp, he deserves to start," Namath added. "But I don't know that the deserving guy always gets to start. The contract speaks for itself sometimes."