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Jets Find a Silver Lining After a Bad Timeout Mornhinweg Takes Blame, but Good News Is That Smith Is Becoming a Better Leader


FLORHAM PARK, N.J.—Take heart, Jets fans. The fourth-quarter timeout that nullified the team's game-tying score in Sunday's 31-24 loss to Green Bay has a silver lining:

Quarterback Geno Smith is becoming a better leader.

On Monday, offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said that the timeout, which wiped out a scoring pass from Smith to Jeremy Kerley, was his fault. A few seconds before the snap, Mornhinweg said, he saw that the offense was lined up incorrectly for the play he had called. He ran up the sideline yelling for a timeout, but then rescinded the request when he saw that Smith had righted the formation.

"I've got to trust Geno to get everything fixed," Mornhinweg said.

It's been fairly clear in the Jets' first two games of the season that the 23-year-old Smith, now in his second year in the league and under Mornhinweg's tutelage, is improving as a passer. But teammates say he has also become a more assertive leader. With a firmer grasp of the team's offense and his role within it, Smith speaks louder and clearer in offensive huddles, and can be trusted to fix formation errors in the heat of the moment.

"He has better awareness," said right guard Willie Colon. "He's growing."

On the play that will live in Jets infamy, New York faced a fourth-and-4 on the Green Bay 36 yard line with five minutes to play. The Jets lined up with Smith in the shotgun and running back Bilal Powell standing to his left. As the play clock ticked down to eight seconds, Mornhinweg, standing at the Green Bay 45, began stomping down the sideline toward head coach Rex Ryan, who was at the Green Bay 35. Mornhinweg slammed his hands together to call for a timeout, yelling in an effort to get Ryan's attention.

With six seconds on the clock, Smith pointed at Powell and told him to shift to the quarterback's right side. Mornhinweg said he saw the shift and waved his arms back, trying to cancel the timeout.

Ryan never heard Mornhinweg amid the roar of the Lambeau Field crowd, but defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson did. Standing on the sideline and thinking that Mornhinweg still wanted the timeout, Richardson scurried up to the side judge and, with his mouth next to the official's right ear, asked for the timeout. The side judge whistled and waved his arms above his head to stop the play, just as center Nick Mangold snapped the ball and Kerley darted down the field.

After the game, Richardson took the blame for the touchdown-negating timeout. But on Monday, Mornhinweg wouldn't let him have it. "Everything that goes on offensively is my responsibility, period," he said. "Sheldon needs to take no accountability for that. He was only trying to help."

Write to Stu Woo at Stu.Woo@wsj.com


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