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National Columnist

Critics of Geno Smith everywhere ... but none of them believable

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In a perfect world, Geno Smith becomes a star. He wins the starting job for the New York Jets. He wins games, awards, maybe even the Lombardi Trophy some day.

Know who would lose, in that scenario?

His critics. The gutless ones in the NFL who have savaged Smith for weeks behind the veil of anonymity. The mean-spirited ones in the media who have savaged Smith because it's safe, because everyone else is doing it, so here's another story ripping him! The guy from the scouting service, a guy whose name you recognize in 2013 if only because he did the same thing to Cam Newton in 2011.

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I want Geno Smith to be right, because I want all those people to be wrong. Bad guys shouldn't win, and if Geno Smith becomes a star, they won't.

Maybe, just maybe, Smith is a bad guy himself. Time will tell, but today is not that time. Today is a day to stop swallowing what is being pushed toward your throat and start thinking for yourself. Who is attacking Geno Smith, and why? And where is the "information" coming from?

How, in a matter of months, did Geno Smith devolve from a humble, smart, hard-working kid at West Virginia to the scourge of the 2013 draft -- a cocky, disinterested, future flop in the NFL?

It started with Nolan Nawrocki. Well, it did. He's the guy from that scouting service who ambushed Cam Newton before the 2011 draft as being "disingenuous" and having a "fake smile" and then getting to the actual football by writing that Newton "will not prove worthy of an early investment. An overhyped, high-risk, high-reward selection with a glaring bust factor."

Cam Newton was the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2011. He went to the Pro Bowl, threw for 4,051 yards, ran for 708 yards. And then he put up similar numbers in 2012.

Glaring bust, my ass.

Undeterred, Nawrocki went in on Geno Smith this year, predicting Smith would "be overdrafted and struggle to produce against NFL defensive complexities [because he] did not show an understanding of concepts on the white board [and is] not a student of the game."

Translation: Geno Smith is lazy and not very smart.

We don't know Nawrocki's sources, but we know the sources for these stories about Geno Smith from this past season at West Virginia, one in the Washington Post and another in the New York Times. According to these stories Geno Smith is academically gifted, so smart that teachers offered to let him skip a grade in elementary school. By high school, Smith was reading to hospital patients and working with teammates to help clean streets in Miramar, Fla.

Bad kid, Geno Smith? He sounds damn near perfect. He played chess. Wrote poetry. Won an oratorical contest by reciting a poem by Langston Hughes. And West Virginia offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson told the Post that Smith studied more film than any quarterback he'd ever seen.

But that's not the real Geno Smith, we're supposed to believe. And again, maybe it's not. Maybe he changed before the draft. Maybe stardom got to him. I'm not telling you it didn't happen; I'm telling you, I don't believe it happened just because anonymous sources with their own, unknown motivations say it did. My theory on this stuff? If you're going to rip somebody, put your name on it or shut the hell up. Anything less than full disclosure forces us to fill in the gaps, and I fill them in like so:

I don't believe you.

After Smith fell out of the first round, ESPN reported that he was going home. It didn't quote Smith, just reported it. People believed it. Smith stayed, and said his plan was always to stay. People didn't believe that. Why? Because the water already had been polluted by Nawrocki, and further muddied by Smith's fall out of the first round, and now it was open season on Geno Smith.

Pro Football Talk piled on like an absolute champ with a story that dared Smith not to show up for Day 2 of the draft:

"If Smith doesn't return," the story waxed moronically, "he'll be confirming in the minds of many that he can't show grit and resolve under pressure. That he'll sink his head and slump his shoulders when the team is 14 points behind in the third quarter."

Lord have mercy.

Smith did return, but it was too late. Anonymous sources were everywhere, and Smith gave them fodder by firing his agents after his humiliating draft slide. The New York Daily News reported that he fired his agents because of his "belief that he would have -- and should have -- been the No. 1 overall pick ... even though he was given no assurances of his draft position."

... even though he was given no assurances of his draft position.

Who do you suppose leaked that?

Smith countered that he fired his agents because they gave him bad advice -- to skip the Senior Bowl. EJ Manuel went to the Senior Bowl and won MVP and was the only quarterback drafted in the first round. Geno Smith skipped it and slipped to Round 2, though he acknowledged that skipping the Senior Bowl "was a decision I ultimately made."

Mature response. No matter. The wolves were out. Yahoo reported that Smith spent too much time on the phone when he was visiting with teams before the draft. ESPN.com had a source who couldn't come up with anything specific to smear him with, just the overall sense that Smith "is coming off as a spoiled, pampered brat."

Again, for the final time, maybe he is. Maybe. But that's not who Geno Smith was in college. It's not who Geno Smith was in high school. It's not who he was before that, when he was ripping through school so easily, so earnestly, that he was given the option of skipping a grade.

But that's who Geno Smith is now? I don't believe it.

Be great, Geno Smith. For yourself.

And them.


Gregg Doyel is a columnist for CBSSports.com. He covered the ACC for the Charlotte Observer, the Marlins for the Miami Herald, and Brooksville (Fla.) Hernando for the Tampa Tribune. He was 4-0 (3 KO's!) as an amateur boxer, and volunteers for the ALS Association. Follow Gregg Doyel on Twitter.
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