Seahawks’ Geno Smith Fulfilling 2014 Prediction From Former Head Coach

Geno Smith

Getty Seattle Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith received a message from his former head coach Rex Ryan that has come true nearly 10 years later.

The New York Jets once believed that Geno Smith would become their franchise quarterback.

That quickly ended, though, when Smith threw 34 interceptions versus only 25 touchdowns in his first 30 NFL games. After the 2014 season, the Jets replaced Smith with Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Smith wouldn’t again start more than 3 games in a single campaign until this year.

But despite his early struggles and the Jets giving up on Smith, the quarterback always had a fan in former head coach Rex Ryan.

Ryan made it clear to Smith in their final conversation as head coach and player after the 2014 season that he was going to be terrific one day in the NFL.

“I remember the last thing I said to him,” Ryan told ESPN’s Brady Henderson. “I go, ‘You’re going to be a hell of a quarterback in this league. Unfortunately, it’s not going to be for me.'”


Jets Firing Rex Ryan Changed Geno Smith’s Career

Ryan experienced success early in his head coaching career with Mark Sanchez behind center for the Jets. In the first two seasons of Ryan-Sanchez, the Jets advanced to the AFC Championship Game.

But after going 11-5 in 2010, the Jets never won nine games again with Sanchez. Ryan, though, remained in New York long enough for the franchise to draft its next quarterback in Smith.

Perhaps feeling the pressure of trying to quickly turn around the franchise to save his job, Ryan started Smith immediately. Ryan admitted to Henderson that starting the raw quarterback from West Virginia as a rookie was a mistake, but that it was easy to be “enamored with Smith’s talent.”

That was talent Smith showcased in flashes during his first two seasons. The best example of that was in his final game under Ryan when he went 20-for-25 with 358 passing yards and 3 touchdowns during a 37-24 victory against the Miami Dolphins.

In fact, Smith completed 65.1% of his passes for 1,001 passing yards, 6 touchdowns and 2 interceptions in his final four games of 2014. He averaged 9.2 yards per pass during that stretch.

Four games is a small sample. But given Smith’s recent success in Seattle, it’s not outrageous to argue that if Ryan had remained Jets head coach and Smith the team’s starting quarterback, he was going to take a big step as an NFL signal caller during his third season.

Instead, Ryan became the Buffalo Bills head coach in 2015, and Smith started only one more game for the Jets.


Rex Ryan Reveals He Tried to Acquire Geno Smith in Buffalo

Although Smith was a second-round pick, only one quarterback went before him in the 2013 NFL draft. That signal caller was E.J. Manuel, and ironically, Ryan inherited Manuel when he became Bills head coach.

Ryan, though, was still “enamored” with Smith and tried to swap the two quarterbacks for each other.

“As the Buffalo Bills’ head coach in 2016, Ryan tried to trade Manuel for Smith in a swap of onetime starters who had become relegated to backup roles,” wrote Henderson.

Smith became a free agent after the 2016 season, but by that time, Ryan had already been fired from the Bills.

So Smith was regulated to a backup role for the next four years until finally getting an opportunity to play for the Seattle Seahawks. Smith is making the most of that chance.

“It finally worked in Geno’s favor,” Ryan told Henderson. “All the s*** that happened to Geno with the broken jaw, all this other stuff, backing up really some legends of the game, he finally got his opportunity, it finally lined up his way for once, and now he’s taking advantage of it.”

Smith will face his former squad, the Jets, with both team’s playoff hopes on the line. The Seahawks sit at 7-8 and half a game out of the final NFC Wild Card spot.

In 15 games this season, Smith has a league-leading 70.7% completion percentage. He has also recorded 3,886 passing yards, 27 touchdowns and 9 interceptions.

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