As covered yesterday, New York Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith has become a piece in the Jay-Z and Roc Nation controversy with the NFLPA. Geno Smith was the target of what appears to be improper recruitment by Roc Nation, with Jay-Z becoming actively involved even though he's not an agent licensed by the NFLPA. Geno Smith isn't the one accused of wrong doing, but has he been a bit too loud as a rookie, a second round selection in the 2013 NFL Draft? From the playoff guarantee to the ongoing saga of his representation, still without a signed contract, Geno Smith has been heard from way too much.
Before getting into the buzz created by Geno Smith in a very short time with the New York Jets, it's important to recall just how he came to be with the team in the 2013 NFL Draft. Geno Smith wasn't a Top 10 selection or even a first round pick. He wasn't the first quarterback off the board (E.J. Manuel) and wasn't even the first selection made by the Jets. He was a second round choice, No. 39 overall. The Jets took two players before Geno Smith: cornerback Dee Milliner and defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson.
We haven't seen the same volume of headlines from the first two selections by the Jets. Sheldon Richardson has made some waves on the practice field while Dee Milliner still recovers from an injury. Neither has made much noise whatsoever off the field. E.J. Manuel has been similarly quiet. Last yea's first two selections – quarterbacks Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III – went right to work for the respective teams as the odds-on starters and expected saviors of the franchises, seemingly without a peep.
Yet Geno Smith can't seem to stay out of the headlines. There were whispers at the 2013 NFL Draft that he may not be able to handle the spotlight, coupled with reports about inattentiveness in meetings with NFL teams. Geno Smith didn't do much to quiet down the scrutiny surrounding him when he came out and guaranteed a playoff berth for the Jets immediately after being selected.
Then came the representation dilemma. Geno Smith fired his original representation after the 2013 NFL Draft, with reports suggesting that his fall from the first round was the main catalyst behind the decision. Geno Smith would only go so far as to say there were many factors that came into play when he chose to make the move. Geno Smith followed that up by opening himself up to competing agencies and entertaining multiple representation offers – including a pitch from Roc Nation, headed up by Jay-Z. Geno Smith eventually signed with the Rap star's agency.
Then came the picture of Geno Smith and Jay-Z prior to Smith signing with Roc Nation. That is, of course, a violation of the standards set out by the NFLPA when it comes to agencies recruiting NFL players. Jay-Z is not a licensed sports agent and therefore has no place recruiting a player to be represented by Roc Nation. He's essentially a figurehead, a brand name that will certainly draw the attention of potential clients, but not permitted to be an active person in terms of contacting potential clients.
To tally all of that up, we have pre-draft rumblings about immaturity, a playoff guarantee, a rushed decision to change agents and a botched recruitment process with a buzzy new agency led by someone who isn't even a sports agent. That's all in about a month as an NFL player, without winning the starting quarterback job or even inking a rookie contract.
Of course, none of this actually touches Geno Smith's ability to perform on the field – but there are questions there, too. They include ball security concerns, disturbing trends against above average defenses in his senior season and questions about the progression from Dana Holgorsen's West Virginia offense to an NFL system without a ton of talent surrounding him.
For now, Jets fans will just read the headlines and wait to see Geno Smith on the field. But wouldn't it have been nice if he had just put his head down and gotten to work on unseating Mark Sanchez?
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