Good games, weird data

Geno Smith's tumultous Jets tenure

Geno Smith's tumultous Jets tenure

Nothing damages a fan base quite like misplaced hope. Executives buy unqualified seasons on the back of a developing quarterback, coaches hide inadequacies under the spacious umbrella of “rebuilding”; the game, rigged as ever, will always have room for aspirational patience, giving just enough rope to hang yourself after the doomed third season. The moments that inspire this hope never get replayed, memorialized, or even catalogued properly. Sports fandom memory is cruel and merciless to the losers, and those once hopeful memories just become another Tuesday in the winner’s march to the championship. In forty years, when we’re into the sixth decade of Brady dominance and Bill Belichick is just a transmogrified hoodie berating reporters, fans of suffering lesser teams will grasp at any straw to think of their sports team positively.

The Fitzmagic score hopes to remedy that. For anyone who has struggled through a 7-6 quarterback dual between Mark Sanchez and Ryan Lindley (perfectly captured by this SB Nation video), or tried to talk themselves into the Jay Cutler experience just one more time, these recollections coalesce into one overwhelming feeling of despair.

Yet, like a deity allowing evil to test your faith, these players would provide just enough excitement to reopen each subsequent wound as fresh as the first, and today, we’re here to celebrate the current leader of the Fitzmagic score, Geno Smith.

geno smith: jets prospect

Smith was the top QB on the board in 2013 and seen as a high-upside if flawed prospect with first round grades. Tragically left in the greenroom after he slipped to the second round, Smith eventually ended up in New York as the rival QB to the flailing Mark Sanchez. After a Sanchez preseason injury, Geno became the newest rookie sensation to enthrall and infuriate the Jets fanbase.

If you think of Geno, your mind likely drifts to his 2016 training camp fracas with IK Enemkpali, where Smith got sucker-punched and fractured his jaw.

Yet, I didn’t make the Fitzmagic score to relive past lows. This metric celebrates volatility, glory in spite of itself, and to do that, we turn to some statistical fun. Enjoy the ugly histogram of Geno’s passer ratings, a jack-o-lantern smirk with a gulf where the average should be. As always, we thank Pro Football Reference for their invaluable data.

In my review of Geno’s gamelogs I noticed that my dataset, thanks to some filters around passing attempts, we missed the truest example of my scoring system. 

GEno’s high and lows

THE LOW: Jets v Bills, October 26, 2014


2 out of 8 for 5 yards

Three interceptions

0.0 passer rating

Try and watch these highlights without giggling, because Michael Irvin couldn’t. This came in week eight of the 2014 season, as Jets fans tried to talk themselves into a second-year leap for Geno and a restorative season for Rex. Geno completed more passes to the Bills that day than the Jets. He played half of one quarter, threw three picks, and noped out of there quicker than any career rushing attempt. His replacement, Mike Vick, fumbled four times, tossed his own pick, and ended the blowout with a 49.9 passer rating.

Instead, we watched Geno and Vick alternate benchings for the whole season, flailing into week 17 with a 3-12 record and a shot at a top three pick. One loss to the Dolphins would clinch a prime draft slot and mercifully end Rex’s time with the Jets. Yet, as the Fitzmagic pendulum swung to zero, it flies ever so swiftly to the promised land. 

THE HIGH: Jets v Dolphins, December 28, 2014


20 for 25, 358 yards, 3 touchdowns

A perfect 158.3 passer rating

In a game no one watched,, Geno summoned every bit of upside and promise into a master class in quarterbacking. He produced the only perfect passer rating that entire season, according to CBS and Andrew Siciliano. In the same season that saw a two completion, three interception catastrophe, Geno found the power to toss a perfect game on a divisional rival. He revitalized message board debates in the offseason if one more summer could propel him into franchise quarterback territory. His 2014 season looks like an EKG.

Yet, never forget the premise of this score, or the team he played for. Geno took the momentum of that perfect game into the offseason, drew rave reviews from coaches and beat writers during training camp, and then got his jaw shattered by a teammate in a locker room skirmish. He lost his starting job to the inspiration of this metric, Mr. Fitzmagic himself, and Fitz went on to set Jets record in a 10-6 season. 

Geno never found that glory again, but for some fleeting moments in a forgotten Week 17 in 2014, he showed exactly why some scouts pegged him as a top prospect. He knew well that his style would never fit, and a prescient quote from his Dolphins game report sums it up best.  

What we’re looking for here is consistency,” Smith said earlier this month. “The best teams have consistent quarterback play and I realize that and that’s truly what I want to show to the fans and everyone outside the building.

Consistency’s overrated. We’re here for glimpses of Fitzmagic.

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Jamie Larson