Geno Smith became just the fifth rookie quarterback to beat Tom Brady on Sunday, and his coach’s infatuation with the Patriots’ quarterback might have been just the added motivation he needed to do it.
Rex Ryan has been a Brady advocate for some time, praising his sworn nemesis at least twice a year for going on five years now. Leading up to Sunday’s game with the Patriots, Ryan was once again asked to talk about the three-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback, and this time his admiration even lent itself to some hypothetical thinking.
“I’ll take their quarterback and we’ll see how many wins I’d have,” Ryan said of Brady, per ESPN New York.
That sort of comment may seem harmless on the outside, but it’s the type that a rookie quarterback like Smith might take to heart. Smith says he didn’t feel slighted by Ryan’s remark in the least, but he did admit that it gave him some extra motivation against the Patriots on Sunday.
“I was definitely motivated,” Smith said. “You want to get to [Brady’s] level. You want to reach that status, but even Brady will tell you that it takes time, that you can’t do it all in one year. So I didn’t take it in a way that [Ryan] was saying it against me, or at me.
“I took it in a proper way, and as a competitor I used it as motivation.”
The motivation was just fuel enough for the Jets, too. Smith outplayed Brady on the afternoon, scoring two touchdowns and leading the Jets on a fierce second-half comeback to reclaim the lead and eventually top Brady for the win — something few quarterbacks and even fewer rookies can claim.
With the win, the Jets improved to 4-3 on the season and have already far exceeded any expectations for them coming into the year. And as Smith continues to orchestrate landmark wins like he did on Sunday, the Jets will only get better.