Joe Biden was running behind schedule to accept his Father of the Year Award at the Marriott Marquis in Manhattan Tuesday. Joe Namath had already received his, so he got called up again to the mic to kill a few minutes until the vice president arrived. And he used the time to make an endorsement.
Not Hillary Clinton. Not Donald Trump. The 73-year-old former Jets quarterback came out in support of Geno Smith over Ryan Fitzpatrick as the man to lead his old team behind center this season.
“I think Geno’s going to be the starting quarterback no matter if Fitzpatrick comes back or not,” Namath told about 750 people in the ballroom for these 75th annual awards.
The Fitzpatrick contract drama has dragged on for months. The 33-year-old free agent took a pass on the Jets’ reported three-year offer with $15 million guaranteed. Fitzpatrick led them to 10 wins last season, throwing for career highs of 3,905 yards and 31 touchdowns.
“We talk about Fitzpatrick not signing a contract with the Jets,” Namath told the crowd. “Well, you got to figure as smart as he is, he just doesn’t recognize that it’s important to play with a good team. Last year was the first time he played with a good team in his career, and he excelled.
“His contract came up this year. I really believe Fitzpatrick wanted to sign, but I believe his agent was trying to get a number that the Jets wouldn’t give. And I also believe Geno Smith is the quarterback this year.”
Smith threw 25 touchdown passes and 34 interceptions in his first two seasons as the primary starter. Then IK Enemkpali broke his jaw with a punch last August, knocking out Smith from a bid to start again.
“He was ahead of Fitz last year athletically,” Namath said. “Geno has grown. He’s filling out stronger, and [he’s] more mature.”
Namath has two daughters and a fourth grandchild on the way. The Hall of Famer received his Father of the Year honor from the National Father’s Day Committee for his successful balance of career and parenting as well as his philanthropic work, including for the March of Dimes.
“You’re an inspiration Joe, and a real father,” Biden said.
Namath asked if there were Jets fans in attendance and then Giants fans before saying, “I hope we see you Giant fans in the Super Bowl. Go Jets.”