Joe Namath calls Gang Green’s prized rookie QB Geno Smith a “sensational athlete” with “good size.” And Namath also thinks drafting Smith was unnecessary. “No, I don’t think they needed a quarterback,” Namath said at the United Way’s 20th annual Gridiron Gala at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel on Tuesday. “They needed the other positions filled. Possibly offensive line. They got some defensive line. The safeties are still questionable. The outside linebackers are still questionable.”

To Namath, the Jets already had a quality quarterback in embattled starter Mark Sanchez. Sanchez has struggled in the last two seasons. But Namath attributed that to “distractions.”

“I am pulling for him,” Namath said of Sanchez. “I know that he can do better than he’s done. And we saw him lead a team to two AFC championship games, right? I also know what it’s like not to necessarily have the weapons you’d like to have, not to necessarily have the time you’d like to accomplish.”

Namath said just a handful of Jets got a “passing grade” last season, naming linemen D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold and safeties Yeremiah Bell and LaRon Landry as players who did play up to expectations. The others, he seemed to say, didn’t help Sanchez last year. But Namath expects Sanchez to help himself, whether he does so as a Jet, or in another NFL uniform.

“I know it’s a team game and I know Sanchez is going to play better,” Namath added. “I promise you you’ll see a different guy (this year). I believe you’ll see a different guy.