Geno Smith struggled for much of his first NFL season, a development that wasn't a complete surprise given the demands of the position. But with a year in the league and a full offseason under his belt, the hope is that he can make the leap from error-prone rookie to experienced playmaker.
And there are reasons for optimism; Smith played better down the stretch last season, leading the Jets to a 3-1 record in December when he threw 4 touchdowns against just two interceptions (he had 8 TDs and 19 INTs through the first 13 weeks).
But that reality doesn't dismiss this one: He was still one of the league's worst quarterbacks. According to Football Outsiders, Smith ranked 43rd among all QBs attempting at least 100 passes, ahead of only Terrelle Pryor and Brandon Weeden.
Knowing that, it's not surprisingly that Smith was voted the NFL's worst starting quarterback, according to an ESPN survey. Smith says he is aware of the survey results and he plans to do something about it.
"My first reaction was, 'You know, man, I've got to prove them wrong,' " he told ESPN.com Saturday. "In the end, none of that matters. My key job is to make sure this team is improving and I'm doing everything I can for the betterment of this team."
How much can Smith improve?
"The thing about it is, you have to climb up," he said. "If I'm No. 32, by this time next year or the year after, I expect to be in the top 5."
Lofty goals but that's sort of the point. And Smith has the full backing of coach Rex Ryan.
"Let's take that survey after the season and see where our quarterback ranks," Ryan said. "Let's see where Geno ranks.
"The beauty of it is, what I know for sure is, we get to prove it. Let's see where we all rank after the season. It'll be interesting to see if they take that survey again, what it would look like at the end of the year."
Worth remembering: the NFL's elite passers didn't come into the league that way, and that hasn't been lost on Smith.
"Guys improve all the time," he said. "I've been watching football all my life. I've seen Peyton Manning grow up in this league. I've seen Tom Brady grow up in this league. I've seen Drew Brees. The main thing with all those guys, they're hard workers and diligent. Those are the things I try to do, too."
Also worth remembering: Ryan is "confident" that the 2014 Jets will be a playoff team.