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Geno Smith, Chad Pennington Call Signals at Jets House

Posted Feb 1, 2014

Chad Sees Physical Talent, ‘Unique Sense of Poise & Confidence’ in Geno

In the current NFL, as we all know, it's all about the quarterbacks. And two of the biggest names among Jets QBs of the past 15 years — the incumbent starter, Geno Smith, and the NFL's all-time passing accuracy leader, Chad Pennington — were the star attractions at today's early session at Jets House in midtown Manhattan.

The wearers of the green and white cheered Smith loudly when he took the stage in a director's chair between newyorkjets.com's Eric Allen and ESPN NFL reporter par excellence Adam Schefter. And fans queued up down the stop and onto the 33rd Street sidewalk for a while to step into the tent outside the restaurant and spend some quality autograph and photograph time with Pennington.

Geno told EA and Schef that the Jets' strong 3-1 finish to finish on the high side of 8-8 was a great feeling for him and those around him.

"It was fun," Smith told Allen and the crowd of his 16-start rookie season. "It had its ups and downs. I enjoyed going out and seeing the fans, home and away, that supported us. And we're just working hard to eventually get you guys to this point, this Super Bowl weekend, and have you guys there supporting us."

Schefter stepped up, as is his habit, with a question of his own, asking Smith the biggest part of his game that he'll be working on this offseason.

"Honestly, the biggest thing I'm working is just improving my body, getting bigger, stronger and faster," Smith said. "Mentally, the game will come with the more reps that I get. And physically I just want to be to the point where I feel unstoppable out there, I can just go out there and play hard and lay it out on the line."

I chatted up Chad after he grabbed a bite to eat in the restaurant formerly and soon again to be known as Lugo Caffé. I asked him to put on his coach's cap — he is in fact a coach now, of his son's team back, as well as a new horse farm owner, in Lexington, Ky. — and tell me what he saw out of Geno in his first year at the helm.

Chad never disappoints with his thoughtful comments, and he didn't again this time. One of his responses was in fact about Smith's mind/body approach to the game.

"I think there's no doubt that Geno's physical talent is there," Pennington said. "And I certainly see him as a passer. I don't see him as a gunslinger, I don't see him as a runner. I see him as a pocket passer.

"He understands how to make the appropriate throw and he's got real good mechanics. So I just think as long as he continues to put the mental and the physical together and take it one step at a time, he'll be fine."

Smith at least in college had the kind of accuracy that would hint that he might be able to approach Pennington's still-NFL-record 66.0% career accuracy, although we only saw flashes of it in his 55.8% accuracy this year. But something Geno did have all year was an unflappability that also was a little Chad-like.

"He has a unique sense of poise and confidence," Pennington agreed. "He does not lack confidence in his ability or his capability of leading a team, and I think that goes a long way. Now you have to be able to be realistic about yourself, understand your strengths and your weaknesses. But certainly playing quarterback in this city and in the NFL, you must maintain poise whether it be on the field or off the field and have the ability to maintain confidence in not only your own ability but in what your trying to get accomplished."

Smith said the self-scout and the coach-scout has already begun.

"I've already been scouting myself, and I know our coaches are busy doing the same as well," he said. "We'll get together, put our heads together, and figure out ways to get better."

One more point Pennington made was about the hot-button topic among some fans and many Jets reporters that head coach Rex Ryan still declines the opportunity to name Smith his No. 1 QB heading into the season. But No. 10 says No. 7 has his head screwed on right about this topic as well.

"Eventually, there has to be a decision made about it so your team can rally around one guy and be comfortable," Pennington began. "But for Geno, I really wouldn't worry about it. He has to understand the most important thing for him is his own development, and then put the pressure back up on the staff and the organization to make the decision. That's how you have to look at it as a player.

"It's not college, it's not all rah-rah-ree, all-for-one-and-one-for-all. It's the business of the league. And one of the greatest challenges for a young player is to separate business and football, not become emotional about business but let your emotions rise when you play the game in between the white lines.

"I think Geno's probably grounded enough and confident enough that he's just going to focus on what he needs to do, which is a good thing."

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