FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — The last time Geno Smith started a game, he threw for 358 yards and three TDs — and had a perfect 158.3 passer rating — against the Miami Dolphins.
That was back on Dec. 28, 2014, less than a month before Chan Gailey was named the Jets’ new offensive coordinator. And since then, Gailey has seen a change in Smith.
“I think he’s learned a lot more football,” he said of Smith, who, after replacing Ryan Fitzpatrick in Monday night’s loss in Arizona, was named the Jets’ new starting quarterback on Wednesday. “I think he understands a lot more of what’s happening in the game, in general: what defenses are trying to do, how we need to try to beat them, what we’re thinking. I do think he’s come a long way in that respect. I think he’s a lot better.”
With the Jets 1-5 and mired in a four-game losing streak, coach Todd Bowles decided to bench Fitzpatrick in favor of Smith.
Smith, a second-round pick in 2013, lost his starting job to Fitzpatrick when his jaw was broken during a locker room altercation with then-teammate IK Enemkpali in August 2015. Over the past 14 months, he’s made only two brief appearances: on Monday night, when he played the final eight minutes of the Jets’ 28-3 loss to the Cardinals, and on Nov. 11, 2015, when Fitzpatrick injured his thumb in Oakland.
“I think all of us have a lot of confidence in him,” Gailey said, adding that he supported Bowles’ decision to bench Fitzpatrick, whom he coached in Buffalo. “He wouldn’t be in this position if we didn’t. He’s got a lot of talent. He hasn’t had a chance to do it for us yet, so I’m excited to watch him play.”