We've got better comparisons for Geno - and they're not close, either
Okay, so Rich Gannon took 12 seasons to beat out a bunch of stiffs, so I think we can stop those comparisons. Okay, Wade Wilson wasn't a stiff, but he wasn't exactly Russell Wilson, either. So now we're on to a few other comparisons. I swear, I'll be quick. Remember that guy Mike Glennon I mentioned, way back in chapter three? He had a decent rookie season, better than Smith, in fact. He wasn't able to continue his decent start, and still somehow hung on for eight seasons.
Tommy Maddox is a better comparison for Smith than either Gannon or Glennon. He was taken in the first round by the Broncos in 1992 and got four starts as a rookie, subbing for an injured John Elway. After two seasons of futility, he was traded to the Rams, who recognized his third-string talent and released him after the season. He landed with the Giants and managed to throw three picks and lose a fumble in just 26 passing attempts. For some reason, the Giants hung on to him into 1996, but after five more fumbles and another interception in two preseason games, even they had had enough.
But first-round picks get nearly unlimited chances. That, and Dan Reeves like the kid a lot. Having coached him in Denver and New York, when Reeves took over the Falcons in 1997, he called Maddox for another shot. As before, the preseason was too much for him, and Maddox was finally out of football. He sold insurance for a couple of years, then played in the Arena League in 2000 and the XFL in 2001. He was even named the XFL League MVP, which shows you how awful that league was.
Or maybe he had finally figured football out. After the XFL sunk like the Titanic, the Steelers brought Maddox aboard. He threw a few passes backing up Kordell Stewart - nine, in fact - but was really needed in 2002. Stewart was benched, and somehow, Tommy Maddox finally looked like a first-round pick. He got 11 starts, leading Pittsburgh to a very respectable 7-3-1 record in his outings. He threw 20 TDs and 16 picks - not great, but not hideous, either. On the strength of his record - and undoubtedly the fact he'd been out of the league for four years before his cup of coffee in 2001 - Maddox won the Comeback Player of the Year award.
And that's the strongest comparison with Geno Smith. Maddox returned to form in 2003, He wasn't terrible, but he shouldn't have gotten all 16 starts, either. He threw for over 3400 yards, which is nice, but had 18 touchdowns and 17 picks. His passer rating dropped from 2002's serviceable 85. 2 to 75.3. Remarkably he cut his fumbles from eight to five, but he cut his wins too, as the Steelers slumped to 6-10 with Maddox as their starter.
Now compare Maddox to Geno Smith. Smith looked solid in relief of Russell Wilson in 2021. Yeah, yeah, I know he just went 1-2, but we all know he also outplayed Russ when he stepped in vs the Rams. 95 passes is a small sample, but it's not that small. I'll take five scores vs one pick and a 103. 0 passer rating any day. And of course we know what Geno did last season. Yes, he cooled off in the second half. Five of his eleven interceptions came in the final five games, and after leading the league in passer rating much of the season, he only broke 100 once in those final five contests.
But unlike Gannon, Glennon, Maddox, or anyone else you care to throw out for a comparison, Smith wasn't just okay last season, he was great. Unlike Gannon, he didn't fail for a dozen years; he simply never really got an opportunity to prove what he could do after his sophomore season. He didn't ride on a decent rookie season for a decade like Glennon, or play himself out of the league like Maddox and catch fire for one decent year. The one similarity I do see between Gannon and Smith is this: once he found his groove in Oakland, Gannon was very, very good. He started every game for four straight seasons, made the Pro Bowl every year, and won the league MVP in that fourth year. Geno Smith probably has a tighter timetable, but he's well ahead of that pace.