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Where Does Geno's Rookie Season Rank Historically?

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Is Geno Smith the Jets' next Browning Nagle? Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images.
Is Geno Smith the Jets' next Browning Nagle? Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images.

For Geno Smith, a once promising rookie season has gone off the rails. The numbers aren't pretty: 8 touchdowns, 18 interceptions, 7 fumbles, 55 percent completions, and a 62 QB rating that ranks 34th in a 32-team league.  But, he's not the first young Jets' quarterback to struggle in his first season. Looking back, the Jets actually have a history of having their quarterbacks struggle. Let's see how Geno Smith stacks up with some of his predecessors. In the interest of fairness, we'll look at the numbers of each of these quarterback's first 11 games with the Jets. 

Joe Namath (1965) 
The #1 pick of the '65 draft went 3-5-1 in his first year as starter and completed only 48 percent of his passes. It was a different era though  teams threw rarely and when they did, they threw deep. Namath's 19 touchdown passes also showed a glimpse of what was to come. 

Richard Todd (1976)
Like Namath, Todd was drafted out of Alabama, but he had Joe Willy's big shoes to fill. He replaced the oft-injured Namath as starter in his rookie season, and it didn't go swimmingly. Over 13 games (6 as a starter), he completed 40 percent of his passes for three touchdowns and 12 interceptions. That's a 33.3 QB rating if you're scoring at home. He followed that up with a sophomore season where he threw just 11 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. Todd didn't enjoy success until his sixth season when he led the Jets to a 10-5-1 record and the playoffs. The following season he took the Jets to the AFC Championship, but threw five interceptions on a flooded Orange Bowl field. 

Ken O'Brien (1984-85) 
O'Brien's first 10 starts spanned the end of the 1984 season and the beginning of 1985. Unlike Smith, he sat his rookie year in 1983 and observed from the sideline. The early results were unimpressive. Over five starts in '84 he threw 6 interceptions against 5 touchdowns and completed only 56 percent of his passes. O'Brien would rebound in 1985 though, leading the Jets to 5 wins in their first 6 games and eventually to a playoff berth. After Namath, O'Brien is arguably the most successful quarterback in Jets' history. 

Browning Nagle (1992) 
Famously drafted right after Brett Favre in the second round, Nagle had a cannon of an arm. Unfortunately, the cannon only had one speed and one setting, as it was grossly innacurate. The Jets lost 8 of his first 11 starts and he threw 6 touchdowns against 11 interceptions. It was all downhill from there. 

Chad Pennington (2002) 
Pennington is the rare exception here in that he came out of the gate on fire after studying under the tutelage of Vinny Testeverde for two years. Over a phenomenal first 11 starts he threw for 22 TDs and only 5 interceptions and had an over 90 QB rating in 10 of those games. He also helped lead a 41-0 Wild Card romp of Peyton Manning and the Colts. Injuries would hound him throughout his career, but he had the best first season by a Jets' QB ever, including Namath. 

Mark Sanchez (2009) 
Sanchez of course won two road playoff games in his rookie year, but during the regular season he struggled. Over his first 11 starts, he threw 17 interceptions and the Jets' lost 6 of those games. Those numbers are eerily similar to Geno Smith's. 

So what have we learned? The most important takeaway is that it's really hard for quarterbacks to succeed directly out of college. Those that sit for a year or longer like Pennington and O'Brien have a more realistic chance at success. The Jets didn't have that luxury this year. They now have to hope that Geno Smith learns from his mistakes and isn't buried underneath their weight.