By Jake Brown
Everything was going smoothly in New York Jets training camp for the first couple of weeks. There was no circus act or frontpage headlines this summer. Could the Jets finally stay off the front page for all the wrong reasons during the dog days of summer?
Of course not.
Unknown linebacker IK Enemkpali decided to throw what you can call a sucker punch at Geno Smith. End result…broken jaw. Smith will need surgery and be out 6-10 weeks. Initial reaction…that’s so Jets.
Rumors have come out that Smith owed Enemkpali (try saying that five times fast) money and had not paid it. Reportedly Smith was putting a finger in his face a la Dikembo Mutombo and the insanely strong linebacker socked him right in the jaw. If Smith owed him money, he should have paid it. He’s barely making the minimum while Smith is a starting quarterback making millions. That is besides the point at this moment.
What truly matters is that the Jets aren’t any worse without Smith on the field for the first month or two of the season. Jets fans have exploded after this. Many think that this is going to hurt the team. It won’t. Let’s be real here. Ryan Fitzpatrick is better than Geno Smith. Smith singlehandedly has lost the Jets several games the past two seasons. Sure, Fitzpatrick isn’t the second coming to Peyton Manning, but he’s a serviceable quarterback that helped the Texans finish 9-7 last year. Just look at the numbers.
Geno Smith – 13 TD, 13 INT, 3 fumbles
Ryan Fitzpatrick – 17 TD, 8 INT, 3 fumbles
Geno Smith – 12 TD, 21 INT, 4 fumbles
Ryan Fitzpatrick – 14 TD, 12 INT, 8 fumbles
Sure, you can argue Smith is still young while Fitzpatrick has been in the league for ten seasons. Yes, that’s a limited sample size, but when does it end though? How much time do you give a quarterback to progress? Smith is going into his third season, and we have to look at the fact that he went a whole week of training camp without throwing a pick. Are you kidding me? In the words of Allen Iverson, “WE’RE TALKING BOUT PRACTICE. NOT A GAME. NOT A GAME. PRACTICE.” You don’t wait multiple years for your “franchise QB,” hoping that he takes your team to the promised land.
He can and may still do it, but for now, there’s nothing wrong with Fitzpatrick leading the way. The Jets have the talent around him to be successful. They have stud receivers in Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. They have a solid running back group led by Chris Ivory, Zac Stacy, Bilal Powell, and Stevan Ridley. Most importantly, they have a top five defense. Defense wins championships.
The Jets situation is no different after this shocking news. They still are a playoff contender. They still have weapons on offense. They still have one of the best defenses in the NFL. The only difference is a 10-year veteran under center and not a QB who looked lost for a good portion of two seasons. Progression in training camp after two seasons doesn’t mean Smith was going to shine come game action in September. Everyone needs to calm down. It’s stunning news and it puts the Jets down a man on the depth chart, but it doesn’t make the team any worse. Fitzpatrick has stepped into this situation before and he’s got no issue doing it again. If he goes down, then the team is in major trouble with rookie Bryce Petty at the helm. Until that happens, don’t count the Jets out of any playoff race.
Smith will return before the middle of season. The Jets open the season vs the Browns, which should be a win. They play at the Colts, which would have been a loss with whoever was at QB. They play the Eagles at home, which could go either way. They go to Miami, which goes either way, and then have a bye before the Redskins come to town. At that point, Smith will probably return. At worst, they should go 2-3 without him, which shouldn’t alarm fans, considering their second half of the schedule isn’t brutal.
Fitzpatrick will help the Jets win games. He won’t turn the ball over at the alarming rate of Smith. He’ll make plays when they need him to. He’ll be a saavy veteran leader in the locker room. He provides aspects that Smith can’t and probably won’t provide. The road was going to be much rockier if Smith were to lead it from Week 1, so it’s better that he doesn’t. Let “FitzMagic” do his thing for now, and Smith’s time will come. Also, don’t be stunned if Fitzpatrick is playing well and remains the starter even when Smith is ready to return.
Jake Brown is the Digital Program Manager at CBS Sports Radio and a columnist for CBS Sports Radio, CBS Local Sports, and CBS Local. He previously hosted Brown and Troupe and 4th & Goal with JB & BT with former NFL tight end Ben Troupe on Play.it, iTunes, and CBSLocalSports.com and will be announcing a new podcast soon. Jake lives in Queens, NY and has struggled living the life of a Mets, Knicks, and Jets fan.