By Brad Carroll
After IK Enemkpali punched Jets starting quarterback Geno Smith in the jaw Tuesday in the locker room, and should have knocked his own career out in the process, no thanks to Rex Ryan, it wasn't hard to find on social media, and even on the front page of the Daily News, those that were happy with the sudden turn of events. The fact Smith, easily one of the worst starting quarterbacks in football, has been forced to sit on the bench is a dream scenario for countless fans who want to see this Jets team return to the playoffs.
It's not hard to see why that would be the case. Smith just isn't very good. And with the improvements made by the team this offseason, which drastically changed the entire defense and added a No. 1-type wide receiver to a suddenly weapon-filled offense, it's almost depressing to see that group being led by a quarterback who has shown minor flashes of brilliance surrounded by massive flashes of ineptitude.
But for those believing Ryan Fitzpatrick is the second coming of Vinny Testaverde, a dose of reality needs to be injected. Is Fitzpatrick clearly better than Smith? Nobody can legitimately say he is or isn't. And that's the problem with seeing Fitzpatrick as the guy to get this team back to the postseason and celebrating after one guy gets his jaw broken.
Fitzpatrick had a couple very good seasons in Buffalo, which he continues to live off of in the NFL. For that spurt, he was rewarded with one of the worst contracts in recent football history, signing a six-year, $59 million deal, including a $10 million signing bonus, in October of 2011. The Bills couldn't wait to get rid of him soon after. He was released less than two years later after Buffalo finally had enough and admitted to the terrible blunder.
For all the good people remember about Fitzpatrick's time with the Bills, he still threw 64 interceptions in 55 games. Even his big "contract" year performance was only partly impressive, with over 3,800 yards passing and 24 touchdown passes, which is good. But he threw 23 interceptions, which is bad. The biggest complaint about Smith and Mark Sanchez before him was turnovers. In 30 career starts, Smith has thrown 34 interceptions. That's terrible, but not so far away from the turnover machine Fitzpatrick has been.
Like it or not, Smith had the greater upside than Fitzpatrick. In a perfect world, Smith would have finally ascended to legitimate starting quarterback this year, especially with the weapons he has working around him. Then maybe the Jets could finally build on something this season and next instead of constantly searching for their franchise quarterback, one that has been missing since Ken O'Brien, which many fans might not even remember at this point.
But one sucker punch later and Smith's starting career is likely over with the Jets and Fitzpatrick is the new guy in charge of the offense and the fan base's hopes of a winning season. If the Jets are rolling with Fitzpatrick, Smith isn't getting his job back. If the Jets are terrible, Smith gets the job back but the season is lost and the team will be searching for a new quarterback in the offseason, with Bryce Petty a possible, but not end-all option.
Remember, too, Petty isn't even close to being able to start for the Jets, so he's not even in the conversation to play a major role this season. It's why the team has reached out to Rex Grossman of all people to come and be the No. 2 guy.
While history will tell a cautionary tale of pinning your hopes on Fitzpatrick as your starting quarterback, it doesn't mean the Jets are lost this season. Lightning could indeed strike twice, for both Fitzpatrick, who will be running Chan Gailey's offense again, and the Jets, who were 30 minutes away from a Super Bowl after an older Testaverde rediscovered his career in Green and White.
Of course, fans have no choice now but to pin their hopes on Fitzpatrick.
But for those acting like this is the best possible conclusion to a non-existent quarterback battle are just hoping the other guy is better than the guy they hate. Having Smith as the Jets starting quarterback scares us as much as anyone, but we've also seen the real Fitzpatrick, and it's not pretty.
Like all Jets fans, we will hope for the best and Fitzpatrick will lead this team to the playoffs and beyond. But acting like Smith getting his jaw broken is in any way a good thing, just aren't seeing the full picture.