Geno Smith's tenure with the Jets can kindly be described as rocky, though he appears to be showing signs of maturity. He struggled as a rookie in 2013, throwing 12 touchdowns against 21 interceptions, and with mounting, unrealistic expectations, Smith lost it on a group of Jets fans following a 2014 loss.
Then, last August, Smith was the victim of a sucker punch by then-teammate IK Enemkpali over what turned out to be a $600 plane ticket. He would play just once in 2015.
But with the Jets' tenuous quarterback situation -- Ryan Fitzpatrick wants more money -- it's at least encouraging that Smith's teammates are impressed with how much he's grown.
"I definitely agree," Jets safety Calvin Pryor told NJ.com last week, referring to earlier comments from wide receiver Brandon Marshall that he was proud of Smith. "He's always on time. He's always doing the right things. At first [in previous years], I saw that Geno really didn't talk to too many people. But now he speaks and he goes about things the right way.
"That's what you have to do when you want guys to believe in you. You have to make sure you talk with everyone. You have to have everybody's trust, everybody believing in you. Because we're only going to go as far as you're going to take us, along with this defense. Every great team, you have to see great quarterback play."
Pryor's not wrong, and it's probably why the Jets keep drafting quarterbacks. Smith was a second-round pick in 2013, but the team used a fourth-rounder on Bryce Petty last year, and used another second-rounder on Christian Hackenberg earlier this month. (Of the three picks, it's safe to say that Hackenberg was the least popular among Jets fans.)
Fitzpatrick, who is looking to be paid like an NFL starter (the team reportedly offered him $12 million next season), had a career year in 2015 and helped the Jets to 10 wins. But if he doesn't re-up, Pryor says he's perfectly comfortable moving forward with Smith (related: What's Pryor supposed to say?)
"I do [believe in Smith]," Pryor said. "He has to believe that as well. I think he's very confident. Before the [Enemkpali] incident happened last year, I think he was having a great camp. I think he was buying guys in. In this locker room, guys were believing in him. I'm pretty sure everything happens for a reason.
"He learned from that moment. And I think he's better. Guys are confident that he can get the job done. He just has to be confident in himself, and I think he is. So far, I'm happy with the results."
The good news is that the Jets' defense should again be one of the best in the league. And the offense has playmakers in Marshall, Eric Decker, Matt Forte, Jace Amaro. And perhaps most importantly, Fitzpatrick was a replacement-level player before last season; if Smith can be that -- and there's reason to think offensive coordinator Chan Gailey can make it happen -- then maybe the Jets can again battle for a wild-card spot.