FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - Geno Smith's meltdown in Cincinnati brought to mind words of wisdom uttered long ago by Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells. His counterintuitive evaluation went this way: You get the best indication about a quarterback by looking not at what he does during the good times but how he responds to adversity.
"Watch what happens to 'em when they throw a couple of interceptions and get hit in the mouth and they have to come back to the huddle and have guys looking at him,'' Parcells said -- often. "That's when you can tell what you've got.''
David Garrard, a 10-year veteran, put an arm around Smith after he was benched in the fourth quarter of the Jets' 49-9 loss to the Bengals. The rookie had thrown two pick-6s and failed to follow up on the previous week's excellence in an upset of the Patriots.
"It's funny you say that, because I said that same thing to Geno on the sidelines after he was pulled out,'' Garrard said Monday.
"I said, 'You know what? This game is over, so it's all about how you're going to respond to it next week. Everybody sees your performance today and it's a tough day. How are you going to put all that criticism to rest and do exactly what your team needs you to do to get the win?' ''
Garrard has been there before. During warm-ups Sunday, he was reminded of one such occasion in 2006.
" came over and gave me five, and I said, 'You know, I still have some nightmares from the last time I played you in Tennessee,' " when Garrard gave up three interceptions, two of them pick-6s, one of them by Jones, in the Jaguars' 24-17 loss. Garrard added: "I fumbled in that game, and it was returned for a touchdown. That was definitely my worst one. It was just a bad day.''
Jones also intercepted Smith Sunday, returning it 60 yards for a TD. Garrard hopes Smith can respond the way Garrard did the week after Jones burned him. After losing to the Titans, he completed 74 percent of his passes and didn't throw a pick in a 24-21 loss to the Patriots.
"I've had a few games where I'd like to burn the tape,'' he said, "but it's all about what you do the next time you go out.''
And what was Smith's reaction when Garrard spoke to him Sunday?
"He knew everything I was saying, and he was just like, 'Yes, sir,' '' said Garrard, who recently returned to the Jets' active roster partly to mentor Smith. "It's a sign of a kid that really wants to learn and get better. I'm just trying to help him be better with all the years of knowledge that I have for him to be able to pull out little nuggets here or there.''
Smith has moved on from poor performances in bounce-back efforts after losses to the Patriots and Titans. But now it's a matter of stringing good performances together, which he hasn't done yet.
There's a very strong possibility the Jets will lose two in a row for the first time this season, because they're hosting the 6-1 Saints, a powerhouse on offense and vastly improved on defense.
"We've got to prepare ourselves for it and just come out swinging like we always do,'' Smith said.
But the idea is to swing and not miss. Smith's flop was yet another reminder that for all the promise he has shown, he keeps making rookie mistakes. And there surely are more to come, perhaps Sunday.
But Garrard believes the kid has what it takes. And that means living with the mistakes, not yanking Smith from the starting lineup because things have gone wrong.
"When you have a young quarterback, you don't want to start messing with his head now,'' Garrard said. "He still has us in position to do pretty good. I'm sure he's going to respond. He's ready to move on to the next game. I think he's going to be fine.''
The Jets can only hope.