Geno Smith never got the breaks that Rich Gannon had
Their careers took major departures again at this point. Gannon spent four seasons in Kansas City, splitting time as the starter in his final two years with the Chiefs. He was 5-1 in 1997 but just 5-5 in 1998. That makes a handy 16 game season, so let's see what he did. Obviously, he was 10-6, which is pretty good, right? Unfortunately, he only threw 17 TDs vs 10 INTs. He connected on 304 of 529 passes for a 57 percent completion rate, and a total of 3,449 yards. The yardage is decent, as that would have ranked him eighth in 1998, but the TDs would rank him just 17th. That happens to be Gannon's actual ranking for passer rating in 1998, 17th, at 80.1. He was as mediocre as you can be. That isn't a bad thing, but it typically doesn't win titles, either.
While Gannon was getting work at this stage of his career - not great work, but work - Smith was still languishing on the bench. After his lackluster season with the Giants, he moved on to the Chargers. As with New York, where he rode the pine behind Eli Manning, he was stuck behind another clear start in San Diego, in this case, Philip Rivers who had his final Pro Bowl season. Maybe if Geno Smith had the luck of Gannon and found himself on a team with the recent equivalent of Elvis Grbac, he would have gotten a chance to prove himself sooner. You know, someone like Mike Glennon. Yeah, we'll get to him.
Gannon finally found a system that worked for him when he landed with the Raiders in 1999. He went from the wild offensive schemes of Marty Schottenheimer - we know all about those, don't we, 12s - to the Raiders more wide-open offense. This is where the similarity finally hits. Gannon was made the starter in Oakland, gave their offense a huge boost, and made the Pro Bowl. In fact, Gannon made the Pro Bowl for four straight seasons.
In that respect, I do see a parallel between Rich Gannon and Geno Smith. Once he had a system that allowed him to flourish, Gannon took full advantage of it, just as Smith did last year for the Seahawks. The difference is Gannon had multiple chances to prove he was the guy and whiffed on every one of them until he landed in Oakland.
Gannon spent three seasons as an understudy with the Vikings yet failed to take the reins despite three seasons as the starter. His single season in Washington was an anomaly, but he had four years in Kansas City and struggled to unseat Elvis Grbac, for the love of all that is holy. At age 34, he finally got it together. Yes, he earned his Pro Bowl nods. He threw at least 24 TDs in all four seasons, never more than 14 picks, never less than 3400 yards, and his passer rating was over 90 in his last three Pro Bowl seasons.
Compare that to Geno Smith, who was thrown to the wolves in New York by Rex Ryan, a coach who spent as little time with the offense as any head coach in history. The OC was Marty Mornhinweg, who built his reputation on the success of the 49ers offense of the late 90s. But come on, is it that hard when Steve Young is your QB? He got credit as the OC in Philadelphia after that, but Andy Reid was the head coach. Who do you think was running that offense? Geno Smith never had a chance in New York. After that, he sat behind three straight Hall of Fame quarterbacks. Rich Gannon competed against Wade Wilson, Elvis Grbac, and Bobby Hoying. I'm pretty sure I could get some starts in there.