In Thursday night’s game between the Jets and Patriots, the quarterbacks’ performances could be seen as somewhat similar until getting to the next level of stats. Looking at the completions/attempts, yards-per-catch and average there wasn’t much difference between the Jets’ rookie quarterback Geno Smith and Patriots’ future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady. Smith went 15 for 35 and Brady went 19 for 39. The big difference was Smith’s three interceptions that played a large role in costing the Jets an upset win in Foxboro.
Brady has been having trouble with his new, young receivers. Working without Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola, Brady had one veteran receiver he could trust in diminutive Julian Edelman. Apart from that, there’s the work-in-progress relationship with unheralded rookie Kenbrell Thompkins and a lot of frustrated shoulder-slumped looks, moderate glares and the resistance to start screaming in their faces for running the wrong routes or misreading the defense.
As for Smith, he might as well be wearing a red shirt as if he’s a freshman in college. There’s a lot of talent there, but he’s a rookie playing for a team with a questionable running game, a coach under fire and organizational upheaval on the horizon. The Jets wanted Smith to win the starting job and he got it by default as maligned incumbent Mark Sanchez is likely out for the year. There’s nothing to be ashamed of in that. In the long run, they’re better off giving Smith this game experience in a season in which they’re probably going nowhere than to hand him the reins when there are significant expectations. He threw three interceptions due to mistakes and underthrows. Either he’ll learn from them or he won’t. That, as well as an improvement in the supporting cast, will be the determinative factor as to whether he’s going to make it as a starter in the NFL.
Spotting the dichotomy between the two quarterbacks goes beyond the names on their jerseys, their teammates, the numbers and their experience. Brady can scream at his teammates because he’s Brady. Smith isn’t in a position to say much of anything to Santonio Holmes, Kellen Winslow Jr., and Stephen Hill due to his youth and up-and-down play. There are certain rookies who have walked into the pro football huddle right out of college and let the other players know they’re in charge. Dan Marino and Jim Kelly come to mind. Others are more reluctant. In certain instances, these young quarterbacks appear to be chomping at the bit to start shouting about mistakes. If a young player does it from the outset and the team wins, the player is called a “natural leader.” If they lose, he’s described with expletives and roundly ignored.
The differences between the two teams on Thursday night were stark. That’s not because it’s the three-time Super Bowl champion Patriots with their Hall of Fame coach – Bill Belichick – there in his hoodie armed with a miserable look on his face vs. the dysfunctional Jets with their blustery – yet somewhat castrated – coach Rex Ryan hoping not to embarrass himself so he’ll be considered for another job after his fired following this season. It goes far beyond the obvious reasons. Smith is learning on the job and has little in terms of a supporting cast to help him get through it. Brady is intent on competing for another Super Bowl and is going to do everything he can to will it into happening.
The numbers might have been in the same ballpark, but the players are currently on two different planets.