Less than a week after he was booed during an open practice in front of fans, Jets starting quarterback Geno Smith gave those same fans a reason to cheer. Unfortunately, it's because he was sucker punched by a teammate in a locker room altercation.
Smith suffered a broken jaw that will keep him out until October when linebacker IK Enemkpali decked him over what head coach Todd Bowles called "something very childish that sixth-graders could have talked about and it had no reason to happen."
Enemkpali, who was drafted in the sixth round of the 2014 draft, was immediately released. Smith's injury will require surgery and opens the door for free-agent QB Ryan Fitzpatrick to step in as the new starter. The Jets also have rookie QBs Bryce Petty and Jake Heaps in camp.
While most fans would be disappointed if their starting quarterback went down with an injury, Jets fans showed (once again) why they are not most fans. They immediately turned to sports talk radio and WFAN in New York to voice their overwhelming happiness that Smith won't be under center for Week 1.
Fans also poured their euphoria into the comments section of Deadspin, where doozies like "Jets fans need to get a Kickstarter up to pay Enemkpali's salary, plus a bounty" and "Enemkpali has been cut? I would have named him team MVP" and "Saying he was sucker punched implies Smith didn't throw any punches, which I find hard to believe. Most likely he threw some but most landed 10 yards past Enemkpali or out of bounds" can be found.
For the Jets, it is another in a long line of embarrassing situations. The Smith injury is also the biggest news generated by the team since trading for Tim Tebow in 2012.
The Tebow trade is regarded as among the team's worst. It was a huge distraction, Tebow's playing time was limited only to trick plays and special teams, and the fiasco (coupled with the Butt Fumble) led to the collapse of Mark Sanchez as the Jets QB. Smith was drafted in the second round in 2013, and when Sanchez was knocked out with a preseason shoulder injury suffered in garbage time of an exhibition game, Smith got the call.
In two seasons as QB1, Smith has underwhelmed: He's thrown 34 interceptions to 25 touchdowns and was essentially playing for his future with the team in this, his third NFL season. New York signed Fitzpatrick (more known for his Wonderlic score than playoff wins) in case Smith faltered, and now he could be the team's starting QB for the foreseeable future. The Jets are also already rumored to be sizing up free agents like former QB Mike Vick and journeyman flameout Matt Flynn, who was just released by the Patriots.
The Smith fight is embarrassing and counterproductive for the Jets, a team that opened training camp a week ago to news that Sheldon Richardson was arrested for driving 143-mph with a kid and drugs in the car.
The fight was also the latest training camp fracas involving an important NFL player. Cowboys WR Dez Bryant was involved in a fist fight on the practice field last week, and Carolina QB Cam Newton was involved in a scrap Monday with a teammate, but none of those franchise players suffered any major injuries. There were also no serious injuries when the Texans and Redskins brawled during a joint practice.
But then there's the Jets, a team trying to change its culture. But despite a highly regarded offseason that featured some deft roster moves, solid player additions, and excitement over a new coach, it appears the Jets have a long way to go to restore credibility. But at least the fanbase is happy about something for a change.