FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Calling this season a “humbling experience,” Geno Smith said he still believes he has what it takes to be a starting quarterback in the NFL.
The day after watching from the sideline as the Jets’ season ended with Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing three late interceptions in a loss to Buffalo, Smith said he is not content to remain a backup.
“I’m not getting any younger,” Smith, 25, said Monday. “When I came in, from day one I wanted to play. That’s never going to change. I want to be out there. I want to compete.”
Smith, the Jets’ starter in his first two seasons, had his season derailed Aug. 11 when then-teammate IK Enemkpali punched him in the face during a locker-room dispute. Enemkpali broke Smith’s jaw, and Fitzpatrick took over as the starter. He threw a career-high and franchise-record 31 touchdown passes with 15 interceptions, helping to lead the Jets to a 10-6 record, their best in five years. Fitzpatrick will be a free agent this offseason.
Coach Todd Bowles said it is a “pretty high” priority to re-sign Fitzpatrick and added that if he comes back, he will be the starter. Bowles seems to want Smith back, presumably in a backup role. “I like Geno as a quarterback and as a person as well,” he said. “I thought he matured as a quarterback and a person. I’m proud of what he did this year.”
Smith has a year left on his rookie contract, and it’s possible the Jets could retain him to be Fitzpatrick’s backup. When asked if he would request a trade to a team for which he might have a better chance of starting, Smith said: “That’s a very hypothetical question. I don’t really know how to answer that. I haven’t done it yet.”
Smith called this season a growing experience, saying it made him a better player and person. He appeared in one game, a Nov. 1 loss in Oakland after Fitzpatrick suffered a thumb injury. Smith threw for 265 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in that 34-20 defeat.
“I’m extremely competitive,” Smith said. “I was put in a tough situation this year and I did my best to handle it. I didn’t play. Probably the first time I haven’t played since I was 8 years old.”
Smith said his year on the sideline is something he will think about as he works out in the offseason.
“I’m not going to change the way I go about things, because I’ve always worked hard and had the right mind-set,’’ he said. “I’m going to continue to do that but work 10 times harder because I have 10 times the motivation.”