Geno Smith's career began under the brightest of spotlights, as a rookie quarterback starting for the New York Jets.
Playing in the country's largest media market, Smith's up-and-down tenure with the Jets has been well documented by now. But the short version of the story is that, through circumstances largely beyond his control, Smith lost his starting job after two seasons, became a backup, then had to wait, and wait, and wait—longer than he should have, it could be argued, considering the second chances some other less accomplished and less talented quarterbacks received over the years—before finally becoming the Seahawks starter last season.
Smith, of course, thrived in that role, helping lead the Seahawks to the playoffs while earning Associated Press Comeback Player of the Year and Pro-Bowl honors. Smith showed, once he was given a real chance to earn a starting job, that he was not only a capable NFL quarterback, but an elite one. On his way to leading the NFL in completion percentage (69.8) and leading the NFC in touchdown passes (30), Smith happened to face all three of his former teams, the Jets, Giants and Chargers, leading his team to wins in all three games while throwing six touchdown passes with one interception, maintaining all along that there was nothing extra at stake when facing those teams.
And now, when the Seahawks play the Giants on Monday Night Football, Smith will be revisiting the early days of his career once again, this time by playing at MetLife Stadium, which is home to both the Jets and Giants. Monday's game will be Smith's first start there since 2016, when he started one game in place of Ryan Fitzpatrick, only to tear his ACL in the game. And it will be Smith's first game there as a regular starter since 2014, his second year with the Jets.
Smith, of course, isn't making this game out to be anything more than just the next game on Seattle's schedule, regardless of the location or opponent.
"I'm excited to go on the road, another opportunity for us as a team," Smith said. "Monday night game, prime-time game, can't wait. Just another opportunity for us to go out there and prove ourselves against another good defense."
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said he planned to have one-on-one talks with a handful of players leading up to the game because of their connections to New York or the Giants, including Smith, safety Jamal Adams, who spent three years with the Jets, and who will be playing his first game in more than a year, and safety Julian Love, who played for the Giants for four seasons before signing with Seattle in free agency this offseason.
"We've already started that talk," said Carroll, who himself has New York ties having spent five seasons with the Jets, four as defensive coordinator and one as head coach. "He's fine. He'll be fine about it, it's a long ways back. He probably doesn't have as much of a thought about it as I do."
Having seen how Smith handled everything that came with last season, his first as a starter in eight years—from facing the Russell Wilson-led Broncos in Week 1 to playing his former teams to maintaining his poise and consistency throughout a season in which he was the subject of a lot of media attention—Carroll has no concerns about a trip back to New York affecting Smith in a negative way.
"He's so routine now about how he prepares, and his expectations on what it takes to prepare well, that it kind of overrides the issues," Carroll said. "I'm always on him and watching him and wanting to see that he's balanced and on track. There's not much critique in there. He's doing it. He knows how to do this as well as anybody, he's been through it all. His respect for preparation is at an all-time high. He's maxing out every opportunity he gets, every rep counts for him. He's competing like the plays in practice are like the plays in the game. You can't ask for more than that, he's doing everything."
Smith chalks up his steady play and demeanor to "my day-to-day routine," and sees Monday night as just another chance to show what he can do and help his team win a game.
"The media makes things more than what they are but it's just another football game," he said.
"For me, it's another opportunity to go out there and again prove myself. No matter who it is or where it is, it's about executing on the field. Once the game is played, none of that outside noise ever matters. I'm just focused on doing my job, which is being the quarterback of this team and letting the writers write the stories."
And though Smith isn't hyping up a return to New York, he does have plenty of appreciation for his time there, even if things didn't work out as well as he might have hoped.
"Every part of that process prepared me for where I am now, and this now is going to prepare me for something in the future," Smith said. "I just think that's how life works. I was very grateful for all of my opportunities there and it all prepared me for where I am now."
The Seahawks held a walkthrough on October 1, 2023 to prepare for their upcoming matchup with the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium on Monday Night Football.