New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan came to the defense of rookie quarterback Geno Smith on Monday, and he took a shot at West Virginia in the process. A number of players who were teammates with Smith at West Virginia last season were quoted by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review as saying the team lacked leadership. Smith was not mentioned by name, but he was the Mountaineers’ quarterback.
“Last year we didn’t have, you know, a lot of leadership,” junior running back Dustin Garrison said.
Several other players said they felt the Mountaineers were not a team last season, but more about individuals. When asked if the report makes him question Smith’s leadership ability, Ryan immediately defended the rookie.
“No, but it tells me I’m glad my kid never went there. Tell you that much,” Rex said, via Manish Mehta of the NY Daily News. “I don’t get that. Geno was a tremendous player for West Virginia. Sometimes, I don’t know, you have to ask them. I certainly don’t get that. When somebody leaves your deal, I guess that’s up to them, you’d have to ask them.”
West Virginia looked like one of the best teams in the country last year after the first six weeks of the season, but they quickly fell apart and capped things off with an embarrassing loss to Syracuse in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl. Smith fell off a bit, but for the most part defense was the issue. There was very little Geno could have done about a 55-34 loss to Oklahoma State or a 50-49 loss to Oklahoma.
We don’t know if Smith lacked leadership skills, but we do know it’s easy for a team to blame a player who has moved on even if their struggles weren’t his fault. My guess is that’s what is going on at West Virginia.