Even Mark Sanchez's most ardent supporter is coming around to the idea of Geno Smith quarterbacking the New York Jets for the foreseeable future. Following Sunday's improbable last second win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Jets' head man Rex Ryan offered high praise for his rookie gunslinger.
"We knew we needed to make a play and he did," said Ryan of Smith's run on the game-winning field goal drive. He stepped up."
The former West Virginia standout scampered for 15 yards and absorbed a late hit along the sideline from Bucs' linebacker Lavonte David, which set the Jets up in field goal range. Ryan took special notice to Smith's improvisation and the subsequent personal foul penalty which gave the Jets a chance at redemption.
"He was running like crazy and he got out bounds because we had to stop the clock," noted Ryan. "That was obviously a smart play. You're not running out of bounds thinking the guy is going to hit you but that's certainly what happened."
Aided by David's boneheaded penalty, Smith directed the Jets on a game-winning drive in his first NFL start. The first year signal-caller committed two costly mistakes in the first half, including a strip sack fumble at his own five-yard line that led to a touchdown and an errant interception on his next offensive possession. Smith overcame early adversity to propel New York to victory, but his head coach insists No. 7 has room for growth and improvement.
"There's no doubt he made a couple of mistakes," admitted Ryan of Smith. "The big one is that when you're in the heat of the battle, you've got to have two hands on the football."
Somehow, someway the Jets got away scot-free and Smith earned the trust of Gang Green's coaching staff and his teammates. Just three weeks removed from a sprained ankle that sidelined him for the team's second preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Ryan thinks Smith is starting to return to full health and top form.
"We knew he is a much better quarterback than he showed in the one preseason game where he was hobbling around," said Ryan. "He was more like the quarterback we saw in Detroit before he got hurt. He had a great week at practice, the whole team had a great week at practice. Like I said, we feel good about Geno, we feel good about our football team, from top to bottom."
Ryan and company have been under endless scrutiny leading up to the regular season as many pundits projected the Jets to be the worst team the league has to offer. With a victory under their belts, the Jets may avoid being the media's punching bag, if only for the next few days.
"Well it feels good to win, noted Ryan. "You know did I take heat, there was no question. We were all taking heat from the outside. But inside our walls, we just try to get better every day."