The New York mobilized quickly after IK Enemkpali broke the jaw of designated starting quarterback Geno Smith, releasing the linebacker and moving Ryan Fitzpatrick up the depth chart to starter, at least until Smith is back. Meanwhile, they’ve also been reaching out to Rex Grossman.
Enemkpali punched Smith in the face after they were arguing over a $600 plane ticket. Smith had Enemkpali book him on a flight to the latter’s football camp in Texas last month, but Smith eventually couldn’t make it. Smith said he would pay Enemkpali back but didn’t, resulting in their confrontation in the Jets locker room and eventually Enemkpali “sucker punching” Smith, resulting in a broken jaw and being out for six to 10 weeks for the third-year quarterback.
According to ESPN’s Josina Anderson, a source familiar with the situation told her that at the start of camp, Smith approached Enemkpali, sensing tension between the two. The source said Smith confronted Enemkpali, tried to diffuse the situation and offered to pay Enemkpali the $600. The source told Anderson “Geno initially intended to attend the event out of goodwill,” adding, “Geno did not borrow $600 from him. He volunteered to attend the event. Geno offered to pay the kid back from what was spent, to help him out.”
Enemkpali is now ancient history for the Jets, regardless of other off-the-field problems and previous violent incidents he’s had. Both head coach Todd Bowles and All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis hold Smith accountable as well for the situation that developed, but right now it doesn’t matter. The Jets are minus a quarterback, and it’s Fitzpatrick that steps in.
Last season Fitzpatrick had his best year in terms of accuracy (63.1%) and interceptions (only 8 while throwing 17 touchdowns). Known for his gunslinging ways earlier in his career and for the amount of mistakes he committed, Fitzpatrick also posted a career-best 95.3 passer rating, and despite being the second-stringer heading into training camp, he just might be a better quarterback than Smith.
But Fitzpatrick is also the quarterback with the most career starts in the league without making the postseason. He hasn’t exactly been on powerhouse teams. The mid 00’s Rams, the Buffalo Bills, the Tennessee Titans in 2013 and last year’s Texans. He tends to find starting jobs without being designated for them initially, but the Jets need him to mesh with the receivers quickly, even if he knows the playbook and is a fast learner of everything that’s not about actually completing passes to players.
The quarterbacks behind Fitzpatrick are now Jake Heaps and Todd Petty. Shortly after releasing Enemkpali and finding out about the severity of Smith’s injury, which could keep him out for almost half the season, they called up Rex Grossman, who is currently injured as well, but should be ready to play sooner than Smith does, and might provide a better option as a backup to Fitzpatrick than what the Jets have right now.