Eight months ago, Geno Smith was the face of the NFL draft -- a long face.

Amid media reports that painted him as a diva, Smith -- projected as a top-10 pick -- tumbled out of the first round. That infamous slide, the quarterback said Monday, provided motivation for his rookie season with the New York Jets.

"It couldn't have happened in a better way," said Smith, who finished an up-and-down year with an encouraging December. "Not only did it give me that fuel that I needed to go out and be that hard-working guy every single day, but I landed in a great spot."

The Jets took a chance in the second round. After a dreadful midseason slump, Smith provided optimism for the offseason, helping them to a 3-1 mark over the final quarter.

As they packed up after an 8-8 season, the Jets offered strong support for Smith, who likely will go into training camp as the No. 1 quarterback.

"I think this team believes in Geno," wide receiver David Nelson said. "I think the way he played over the last four weeks speaks for itself."

Wide receiver Josh Cribbs said Smith "has all the factors of a championship quarterback. Now it's just a matter of honing that in."

Smith started every game, although the organization never formally anointed him as the starter. Now it's just a matter of semantics. Barring something unforeseen, the plan is to stick with Smith.

Smith finished as the lowest-rated passer in the league (66.5), but he raised his play down the stretch. His rating over the last four games was 83.6, as he went the last two games without a turnover. He had 25 in the first 14 games.

If his draft-day snub was the fuel, Smith's Week 13 benching was the refueling. He was pulled at halftime of a 23-3 loss to the Miami Dolphins, nearly costing him his job. Coach Rex Ryan decided to stick with him, not a popular choice at the time.