If New York Giants quarterback Geno Smith is nervous about making his first start for Big Blue this weekend at Oakland, he’s not letting on.
“I mean, you know, you’re excited,” he said shortly after the Giants announced that Smith would be getting the start against the Raiders ahead of Eli Manning Sunday.
“I’m always excited to have an opportunity to play, but there’s no major reaction – didn’t throw a party or anything. Just went to work. Got into the classroom, started watching Oakland and just preparing.”
At the same time, Smith knows this is a bittersweet opportunity born of a 2-9 season that has gone so horribly wrong for the Giants that head coach Ben McAdoo, to shake things up, has pulled out at desperation move by benching the team’s long-time quarterback.
“I know he’s hurting,” Smith said of Manning. “I’ve been through it and I wasn’t a 10-year starter. It hurt me the same way, so I know what it’s like and I know it’s tough and I just always continue to reiterate to him that I’m in his corner and I’ve said that from day one and he said the same thing to me. That means a lot.”
Smith has started 30 games over his NFL career, his last one coming Oct. 23, 2016 against the Baltimore Ravens when he was with the New York Jets. Smith suffered a season-ending knee injury that year, his tenure with the Jets ending.
Smith has a career completion percentage of 57.7, having completed 501 out of 868 pass attempts for 5,962 yards, 28 touchdowns and 36 interceptions.
Saying he was ready for the opportunity, Smith didn’t indicate if he was feeling any additional pressure given his gigantic task of having to fill Manning’s shoes.
“I don’t really view it that way. I don’t really look at any outside pressure. It can’t be applied to me. I want to go out there and I want to win for these guys,” he said. “I want to play hard for my teammates and I want to play hard for the organization. I think it’s important for us to kind of get some things going and I think it’s going to be a great opportunity. So, I look forward to it.”
While Giants fans are very squeamish about having Smith on the field Sunday. one person who has already pledged to support Smith in any way he can is Manning.
“I told Geno I’d be here for him and I sat down with him today and going over the script and going over plays and just make sure he’s comfortable with everything and knows how to go out there and give him a chance to be successful,” Manning said.
Manning’s graciousness has meant a lot to Smith.
“I told him I support him. I told him I have a ton of respect for him. When I came here, I’ve said that all along. This guy has done a tremendous job in this league, done a bunch of things for this organization,” Smith said.
“None of that can ever be taken away or forgotten and this is a business, man. It’s tough and my number is up, so it’s my time to go out there and do what I’m supposed to do and make sure that I get the job done.”
Besides Manning’s success, Smith hopes to emulate the veteran quarterback’s leadership.
“I’ve seen the work that he’s put in. I’ve seen the amount of time that he spends in the classroom and making sure that the guys are prepared, not only himself. So, I’ve learned a lot in that regard. I’ve learned a lot from the guy in just the short time I’ve been here and it’s a tough deal because I have a lot of respect for him and I do understand what he means to this organization. But, like I said, it’s a business and every man has to do what it takes to feed his family. So, that’s my goal.”
What about his NFL future?
“We’ll see. You can only prove it on the field. There’s no talk that can be said,” Smith said. “There’s nothing I can say in the media that will change things. The only way that I can improve my current situation or any situation towards the future is to play well.”
WATCH: Eli Manning reacts to the announcement that he will not start on Sunday pic.twitter.com/nQoPEcfTl3
— New York Giants (@Giants) November 28, 2017