MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. - There still are questions about whether Geno Smith is good enough to be the Jets' franchise quarterback. But in the final game of his second season, Smith put on a magical performance in a 37-24 win over the Dolphins, at once offering hope for the future and making fans wonder why this hasn't happened more often.
Smith was 20-for-25 for 358 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions, finishing with a perfect quarterback rating of 158.3 for the first time in his career. The only blemish on an otherwise flawless performance was a second-quarter fumble; otherwise, letter perfect.
"Overall, I think we did what it took to win the game," Smith said. "Overall, it was good to get a team win and it was good to finish the year strong. Obviously, things haven't gone our way and they haven't been great, but we finished off strong."
Smith had a career day, as did Eric Decker, the Jets' prized free-agent receiver, who spent much of the year battling hamstring problems but showed a glimpse of why the Jets signed him to a five-year, $36.25-million contract. Decker finished with a career-high 221 yards and a touchdown. He was only seven yards away from Don Maynard's franchise record for most receiving yards in a game.
Smith has drawn criticism in recent weeks after suggesting that he has shown flashes of being a Pro Bowl quarterback. But this time, he actually did show Pro Bowl form. He bettered his previous mark of 331 passing yards in the third game of his rookie season in 2013, and his three touchdown passes matched his career high from a Monday night win in Atlanta last season.
"I just think about being consistent," Smith said when asked about his Pro Bowl flashes comment. "When I talk about my improvement and where I need to go as a player, what I was speaking on was just being more consistent. At the time, I was saying that I had to be more consistent. I believe in myself, but consistency is the thing that I'm searching for. I'm getting better with that, but it's still a work in progress."
Smith threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to tailback Chris Ivory to give the Jets a 14-10 lead in the second quarter, but his biggest play came on a 74-yard touchdown pass to Decker, who got behind the Miami defense and pulled the Jets to within three points at 24-21 with 11:35 to play in the third quarter. His final scoring strike came on a 23-yard pass to a wide-open Jeff Cumberland to give the Jets a 34-24 lead with 3:22 to play.
This was only the latest strong performance for Smith at Sun Life Stadium, which is just a few miles from where he starred at Miramar High School. Smith led the Jets to a 20-7 win over Miami last year and threw six touchdown passes in West Virginia's 70-33 win over Clemson in the 2012 Orange Bowl. Smith said he had about 40 family members and friends at the game.
"Any time you come back home, right in my backyard, that's a special feeling," he said. "I just enjoy playing here obviously with the Jets, and I just want to continue to win."
Did Smith send a message to the Jets that he should be their franchise quarterback beyond this season?
"It's not about sending messages," he said. "Today was about going out there and playing the game, and that's what I did. I tried to go out there and just play a clean game. Overall, I just want to continue to get better and be consistent."