Smith was forced into action to quickly in Cincinnati and he struggled. He was a player who needed to sit a few years like Pennington. Remember Smith came to the NFL after just one standout season at Oregon State. He was a JUCO who was a one-year wonder in college. He relied on his unbelievable athletic ability to get in college. The guy has one of the best arms you will ever encounter and can run like a deer. But in the NFL you can't get by with just great athletic ability. Hackett has a unique perspective on this player. Remember Hackett was the head coach of USC when Smith had that standout season at Oregon State. So he has seen Smith at his best. Smith was outstanding that one year.
In the West Coast offense, it's important that the quarterback is a good athlete. Just think of some of the best West Coast offense standouts like Steve Young. You need to have good feet and Smith certainly possesses that.
The bottom line is that Smith has awesome natural tools and he is worth taking a flyer on. Even though the Jets have Chad Pennington, Vinny Testaverde and Brooks Bollinger at quarterback, you can't ignore a talent like Smith. If the Jets signed Smith, they could always put Bollinger on the practice squad for a year or two. It can't hurt to have four good quarterbacks. Just ask the Eagles last year. Plus Testaverde will likely play just a year or two more, and Bollinger isn't a proven commodity yet.
One other point - remember Smith's best game as a pro might have been against the Jets. In 2002, at the Meadowlands, he was lighting up the Jets before he had to leave the game with a torn hamstring. He took the Bengals on a long, impressive touchdown drive in the first half. So the Jets brass saw him play very well. It might come down to New Orleans and the Jets for Smith. Remember the Saints lost backup Jake Delhomme to the Carolina Panthers this off-season in free agency. So ultimately they might be the leading candidate for Smith. They have a very good quarterback coach-offensive coordinator in Mike McCarthy. New Orleans might be a better fit for him.
But the bottom line is if the Jets sign Smith, it would be a solid move.