There's still a long way to go for Geno Smith, with no assurances that he'll have what it takes to be the Jets' long-term answer at quarterback. But if there's one thing that bodes well for the rookie passer, it's this: He rarely makes the same mistake twice.
This is one of the critical attributes for any successful quarterback. Just ask Jets offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, who has worked with his share of big-time passers over the years -- Brett Favre, Steve Young and Donovan McNabb, to name a few.
"He's very good at ,'' Mornhinweg said. "Now look, he's made his share of mistakes. He's had some plays that he would desperately like to have back. However, he's learned from it. Very rarely in a ballgame can I come up with [Smith making] the same mistake twice.''
Smith has been far from perfect, and his numbers and the Jets' 3-3 record reflect it. He's completing 59.5 percent of his passes, has thrown seven touchdown passes and 10 interceptions and has a 74.7 rating. Not great, but certainly respectable for a player starting from Day 1.
There were meltdowns against the Patriots in Week 2 and the Titans in Week 4. But there also was a spectacular showing in the Monday night road win over the Falcons, a game in which he played about as well as a quarterback can.
"Rarely does a day go by where I'm not more impressed with him,'' Mornhinweg said. "Sometimes it may not look like it, but he's certainly progressing at a high rate.''
There's something else about Smith that stands out. It's how he comes off to his teammates, how he carries himself as the leader of the offense and how he holds himself accountable to those around him. On that count, he has been exceptional.
Smith is not an excuse-maker. If he makes a mistake, he owns up to it, even if others have contributed to those mistakes by running a bad route or failing to provide adequate blocking.
When a quarterback has his teammates' trust, he will do good things. It's no guarantee of success, but it's important.
"When you're thrown in that position as a starting quarterback for the Jets in a city like New York, you kind of learn those leadership traits pretty quickly,'' right tackle Austin Howard said. "He knows it's a big responsibility and that this team now looks to him as one of the leaders, even though he's young. He has to realize we have the trust and faith in him, and the reason we have that faith in him is because we see how much work he puts into his craft. He's 110 percent on the field, does pre-practice work, post-practice work, film work, comes in early, stays way late. That's the type of guy he is and he understands that. That's good.''
And it's how Smith responds to his mistakes that jumps out at those around him. The guy doesn't point fingers anywhere except at himself. It's also noteworthy that he never -- ever -- uses being a rookie as a crutch.
The other day, for instance, he was asked about trying to eliminate rookie mistakes and responded this way: "I don't look at them as rookie mistakes. I just see them as mistakes. I think every quarterback in this league is going to make some of those mistakes and the key thing is to try and eliminate them, try to avoid those mistakes.
"Although I am a rookie, I don't tend to use that excuse as the reason behind me making those mistakes. I think they're just simple mistakes in a game, and they've got to be eliminated.''
"You hear rookie mistakes, but you can have a fourth- or fifth-year guy who makes mistakes,'' center Nick Mangold said. "Geno's done a good job at recognizing that he doesn't get a pass because he's a rookie. He's working hard continuously to correct things that he's done. A lot of times I haven't seen him make the same mistake twice, which is a good sign.''
It would be a very good sign if Smith doesn't make the same mistakes twice against the Patriots Sunday at MetLife Stadium. A win would put the Jets only a game behind their longtime nemesis in the AFC East, and it could come down to whether Smith avoids problems he experienced in a 13-10 loss in Week 2.
"Twelve plays,'' Smith said of his three late interceptions. "The final 12 plays of the game, in my opinion, are what changed it for us. We were right in it. Just 12 plays, those three interceptions at the end, are what I believe changed it for us.''
Now he has another chance to not make the same mistake twice. If he can pull it off, so can the Jets.