28. That is how many interceptions Peyton Manning threw as a rookie. Manning also only completed just 56.7 percent of his passes. It was a dismal start to his career.
Many quarterbacks who have turned out to be great like Manning started slow. Tom Brady didn’t even throw for 3,000 yards in his first year (to compare, Geno Smith is on pace for almost 4,000). In Drew Brees’ first two years, he had more interceptions than touchdowns. Great quarterbacks don’t get drafted and then take the league by storm; they slowly mature.
Fans today are spoiled. Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson and Robert Griffin III came into the league and were immediately good, so now many fans and writers think that is how greatness usually happens. It isn’t. In fact, players who start incredibly well often never get better.
New York Jets fans should know a great example in Mark Sanchez. Sanchez threw fewer interceptions than Peyton Manning did in their respective rookie years, but he never got better. This is not to say that Luck, Wilson, or even Smith won’t get better. What is relevant is that players’ first seasons rarely tell the whole story. You know what does an even worse job? The first two games.
Analysts, fans and the Jets organization do not know how good Geno Smith can be. They will not know even if they give him an entire season, so how could they know now? In the worst-case scenario, Smith continues to be bad and the Jets miss the playoffs. But the Jets were not expected to make the playoffs … so the worst that could happen is that the Jets match expectations.
Geno Smith will almost certainly throw for over 20 interceptions this year, and will probably complete less than 60 percent of his passes. But you know what? He still might outplay Manning’s rookie season. Have some patience.