EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Geno Smith is a forever footnote in Giants history.
Smith was the only Giants quarterback other than Eli Manning to start a regular season or postseason game from Nov. 21, 2004 until Sept. 22, 2019. Manning's regular-season streak was at 210 consecutive games when he was offered the opportunity to continue it, but if he played only the first half in the team's final five games in 2017. He declined, and Smith started and played the entire game in a 24-17 loss in Oakland.
The next day, coach Ben McAdoo was fired and interim coach Steve Spagnuolo re-installed Manning as the quarterback. Manning started the next 22 in a row, giving him 232 starts in 233 games. Smith never threw another pass for the Giants and the next season moved onto the Los Angeles Chargers and in 2020 to the Seattle Seahawks.
After six lean years, Smith has revived his career this season in Seattle in the wake of Russell Wilson's trade to Denver. He has started every game, completed an NFL-best 73.5% of his passes, compiled a 107.7 passer rating that is topped only by Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen and has led the surprising Seahawks to a 4-3 record and first place in the NFC West.
Tomorrow, the Giants will face Smith and the Seahawks, who have won three of their last four games and scored at least 32 points three times in that span.
"As a football fan and respect for the game, I really respect what he's done with his game," Giants defensive coordinator Wink Martindale said. "Besides playing against him, it's fun to watch the success that he's had.
"He's worked well with (Seattle offensive coordinator) Shane (Waldron) and talking about how to manage the game, and you can see the differences in it from week to week how they're going to attack the game. I think he's worked hard. I think he's a really good person, and I just love to see the success that he's having. I just don't want him to have any on Sunday."
Smith has an unusual career arc. He entered the NFL as the Jets' 2013 second-round draft choice. In his first two seasons, Smith started 29 of 30 games and threw 810 passes – 25 of them went for touchdowns, but 34 were intercepted.
When the Jets acquired Ryan Fitzpatrick in 2015, Smith began a lengthy odyssey in which he seldom saw the field. In the six seasons from 2015-21, he played in only 15 games for four teams, starting five (one each for the Jets and Giants and three last year for Seattle). During that period, he completed 126 of 196 passes. In seven games this season, he has exceeded those totals with 158 completions in 215 attempts for 1,712 yards, 11 touchdowns and only three interceptions.
View rare photos of the all-time history between the New York Giants and Seattle Seahawks.
Giants backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor has traveled a similar path. In the three seasons from 2015-17 (beginning with his fifth NFL season), Taylor started 44 of the 45 games he played for the Buffalo Bills, including one in the postseason. He threw 1,273 passes.
Since the start of the 2018 season, Taylor has played in 19 games with 10 starts (six last year) for Cleveland, the Chargers, Houston and the Giants. He has thrown a total of 274 passes. Taylor began the 2020 season as the Chargers' starting quarterback but suffered a punctured lung while receiving an injection for a rib injury just prior to a Week 2 game against Kansas City. First-round draft choice Justin Herbert took over and Taylor never threw another pass for the Chargers.
Taylor is friends with Smith, and he "absolutely" admires what the Seattle quarterback's performance in his comeback season.
"I'm proud of Geno and what he's been able to accomplish," Taylor said. "He looks very comfortable in that offense, definitely happy for him to be able to just get his opportunity and obviously lead an offense and go out there and play well."
Taylor said going from full-time starter to seldom-used reserve is challenging.
"It's definitely tough," he said. "It takes a different person and a true competitor to stay committed to the process, understanding that there's going to be highs and lows. Everyone's road is different. And he's done a great job of enduring those highs and lows and putting himself in the best position to go out and play at a high level, and he's done that this year.
"Every situation is unique in its own. He's able to learn from a bunch of great guys. He's been able to also play well and have his chance of competing at a high level. And he's taken advantage of those opportunities."
What does a 73.5 completion percentage indicate to Taylor?
"Someone who is comfortable in the offense," Taylor said. "They obviously have a ton of playmakers. He's making the right decisions and putting his team in positions to win games."
Defensive lineman Leonard Williams was Smith's Jets teammate in his first two NFL seasons (2015-16).
"He's always been a good athlete, a good quarterback," Williams said. "I think he's playing some of his best ball right now. I think he's definitely gotten a little bit better. I think he's also playing in a good system for him."
When Smith stepped in for Manning, the Giants' third quarterback was rookie Davis Webb. This season, Webb has reprised that role as a member of the team's practice squad. He has vivid memories of a strange Giants week.
"I think Geno handled it really well," Webb said. "It wasn't easy for anybody – obviously, Eli number one. But I thought the (quarterbacks) room did a good job quieting everything. When you left the building and you looked at your phone, sure there was plenty of texts. But that room did a good job of coming together and helping each other out. And that's how it carried out the rest of the year.
"Not every decision is going to be popular – good or bad. If you knew that, then decisions would be made probably different, different decisions. But that's the decision that we came up with, and I thought Geno handled it really well."
Webb said he has texted with Smith, but the two quarterbacks haven't seen each other since they both left the Giants in 2018. As a friend and quarterback, he's impressed with Smith's play in the first seven weeks.
"Now that he's playing, (he's) arguably one of the best quarterbacks in the league statistically and straight up," Webb said. "If you watched the games, it's noticeable he's in control. Anytime a quarterback has gone through some adversity and has reached some consistent good play – that's what he's been doing – I root for that."
But probably not tomorrow.
*The game between the 6-1 Giants and 4-3 Seahawks is the only one in the NFL this weekend matching two teams with winning records.
*The Giants are 6-1 or better through seven games for the fourth time since 1960. The other seasons were 1989 (won the NFC East at 12-4, lost a divisional playoff game); 1990 (won Super Bowl XXVB) and 2008 (won the NFC East at 12-4, lost a divisional playoff game).
*The Giants are one of nine teams to have trailed in each game in 2022. The other eight are a combined 20-33-2 in 2022. After the 6-1 Giants, the team with the best record among the nine teams is 3-3-1 Indianapolis.
*The Giants defeated the Seahawks in Seattle, 17-12, on Dec. 6, 2020. Colt McCoy played quarterback in place of Daniel Jones, who missed the game with a hamstring injury. The victory broke a four-game Giants losing streak in the series, including three in MetLife Stadium (2011, 2013 and 2017). The Giants are 4-5 in Seattle, including 2-3 in Lumen Field. They lead the all-time series (10-9) that began in 1976.