FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – Geno Smith's statistical line last week included a couple of zeroes in categories the New York Jets have been waiting to see all season.
The second-year quarterback had his first turnover-free game in the Jets' 27-25 loss to the New England Patriots last Thursday. He was solid in defeat, throwing for 226 yards and a touchdown while also running for 37 yards on seven carries. It was a promising bounceback for Smith, who wasn't quite in a celebratory mood.
"Just playing football," Smith said Wednesday when asked if the performance could be a springboard. "Go out there and do my job. That's all I can do."
Not even a building block? A positive in what has been a dismal 1-6 start for the Jets?
"No, we lost the game," Smith said. "That's that. I'm focused on the Bills."
New York takes on Buffalo (4-3) at home on Sunday, looking to snap a six-game skid that has the Jets facing the prospects of a fourth straight season without a postseason appearance.
It could very well cost coach Rex Ryan his job, and Smith needs to show progress during the final nine games to keep his job.
Otherwise, the Jets could be looking to draft a quarterback with what appears, as of now, will be a top-five pick.
But before any of that, Smith will have the chance to show what he can do with a potentially productive offense around him, especially with the acquisition of Percy Harvin last weekend from Seattle.
That will give the Jets, many fans and media think, the chance to better evaluate Smith's overall ability.
"No, I don't see that," Ryan said. "I see us as having an opportunity in front of us against a good Buffalo Bills team that's won a lot of games already.
"So, that's really where your focus (is). We're excited to have Percy here. From the fans' standpoint, however they look at it in evaluating somebody, I don't look at it that way."
Harvin adds a dynamic playmaker to a receiving group that also includes Eric Decker and Jeremy Kerley, as well as tight ends Jace Amaro and Jeff Cumberland.
He's a guy who could stretch the field as a legitimate downfield threat, something Harvin acknowledged he wanted to do more — and something the Jets have been lacking.
"I think when you look at how we are going to use Percy, it might be different than how he was used in Minnesota, how he was used in Seattle," Ryan said. "I guess time will tell, but I truly believe with his kind of talent it's going to be a big help, obviously for our offense and with that, our whole team."
Smith is excited about the addition of Harvin, but tempered expectations for the receiver to come out Sunday with a huge game.
"We have to see how it goes out there once we get out on the field," Smith said.
The Jets are all in on Smith, opting to continue to start him despite having Michael Vick waiting on the sideline. This is a stretch that amounts to a job audition.
Smith's teammates have heard the boos aimed at the quarterback, and the chants for Vick to play in his place. They also are aware of the public uproar over Smith cursing at a fan a few weeks ago, and missing a team meeting the night before the Jets played in San Diego.
They also see how Smith has handled himself behind closed doors, without the fans or the media around.
"People are going to love you when you're playing well and hate you when they aren't," Amaro said. "He's handled the criticism very well. The thing is, the fans just want to see us win. I'm a big basketball guy and it's the same thing for me.
"I'm cheering and yelling and I get mad if a guy misses a shot or a free throw. You expect them to make every shot and free throw, to catch every ball and make every pass. It's just unrealistic.
"You have to brush it off."
It's all part of being a professional athlete, and the spotlight shines brighter when you're the quarterback of a team in New York. Boos and cheers aside, Smith has nine games left to make his job status a non-issue.
Getting Harvin in the mix should help.
So will a few victories.
"I've always felt he has been comfortable and I don't feel that he's easily rattled," left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson said of Smith.
"You've got to be able to take it one game at a time, one play at a time, and I think Geno has done a great job of being poised and staying consistent. Now it's just about stringing games together and we're going to try to get some wins."
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