The New York Jets Debate Club returns to tackle Geno Smith’s broken jaw and the impending Ryan Fitzpatrick era. Yesterday, a locker room fight erupted between Smith and linebacker IK Enemkpali. Enemkpali broke Smith’s jaw over what amounted to a $600 debt. Smith will require surgery and is expected to miss 6-10 weeks. Enemkpali was released. Ryan Fitzpatrick will enter 2015 as the starting quarterback for the New York Jets. With this information in hand, we at Turn On the Jets present the New York Jets Debate Club, an argument/counter-argument format, to best expound the various cases. Dalbin Osorio and Cole Patterson tee off.
Cole: Enemkpali has a history of violence. He assaulted a police officer in college and was placed on probation for battery. Geno Smith probably could have stopped the situation from escalating by reconciling the relatively inconsequential debt or not sticking his finger in Enemkpali’s face. However, Enemkpali’s jump to violence lay the blame for this situation solely at his feet.
Dalbin: This point has been thrown around all over the place, and is one that I don’t really agree with for various reasons. I think both players have to bear the blame for what seems like a trivial issue being turned into something that could’ve been avoided. A player like Geno Smith, signed to a sports agency owned and operated by a man worth half a billion dollars, can’t come up with $600? Again, we’re basing everything off of hearsay but it’s comical to lay all the blame on IK just because of his past. IF that’s the case, Ben Roethlisberger shouldn’t be let around underage women and Donte Stallworth should never drive a car. IK clearly felt disrespected enough to throw the punch. It’s Geno’s fault that he felt disrespected.
Cole: The Jets are better off starting the season with Fitzpatrick under center. The Jets feature stars on both sides of the ball, either aging or in their prime. Despite the expectation of a rebuild, the team is in a win now position. Fitzpatrick was having a career year, having cut down on the turnovers, before his Texan career was ended by injury in Week 15. His veteran savvy, NFL body of work, and knowledge of Chan Gailey’s system make him the better option for the 2015 Jets.
Dalbin: This would be true if Ryan Fitzpatrick hadn’t looked so bad during training camp. Geno was far and away the better quarterback during training camp, so now downgrading to Fitz does limit A LOT of what the Jets can do offensively. With that said, Fitzpatrick is good enough to hold down the fort until Geno returns. He’s not good enough to be the best option for the Jets this year; that is still Geno Smith. Should the Jets not be anything less than 7-0 when Geno is healthy, Geno should regain the job.
Cole: Geno Smith will not regain his starting position upon returning. This new regime has no ties to the embattled signal caller. He has no solid body of work to fall back on. His career with the Jets is over.
Dalbin: This might be the wildest line of thinking only because Geno’s the one that got punched. It’s not like Geno fractured the locker room by going all Gilbert Arenas after a poker game. He made a mistake and didn’t handle this well, but this does not mean his Jet career is over. If anything, this should help motivate Smith into maturing much quicker than he was. By all accounts, he looked like a different player this offseason both on and off the field. If Fitzpatrick plays like he’s been known to play, Geno will return as the starter in no time.
Dalbin: There is no way the rest of the New York Jets respect Geno Smith if they allowed this to happen to him. No one would ever let anyone get this close to Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers.
Cole: I definitely see this incident as a red flag, hinting at this possibility. However, I think it is far too early to say that the entire team doesn’t respect Smith. We don’t know who was present at the time of the altercation (we know Nick Mangold and Bowles were not). We don’t know how quickly this escalated; it could have been a matter of seconds between IK approaching Geno and the punch being thrown. In the end, until we see him in the huddle, we cannot safely judge either way.
Dalbin: The Jets should have cut Geno Smith as well. Geno should have repaid IK and squashed this like a real leader would. It’s time the Jets rid themselves of him.
Cole: As I said before, Geno Smith only has control over his actions. Yes, he could have repaid the outstanding debt more expediently. Yes, he likely could have acted with more respect. Still, he was the one who was assaulted. That being said, the fact that he would let this situation escalate to the level that it did does bring his leadership and foresight into question, both vital attributes of an NFL quarterback.
Dalbin: Todd Bowles needs to be fired as well. With Sheldon Richardson going Grand Theft Auto and now this, it’s clear he’s in over his heads. The Jets made a mistake firing Rex Ryan.
Cole: Love the hyperbole here Dalbin but no, Todd Bowles should not lose his job over the foolish actions of two players he had no hand in acquiring and that occurred when he was not present. More accurately, these actions show the kind of leeway given to players under Rex Ryan and spell out how much work Bowles really has ahead of him to mend a fractured locker room.