It has only been a few days since New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith’s world turned upside down. Now, his job appears to be at stake.
Smith and former linebacker IK Enemkpali got into it in the locker room, resulting in Smith taking a jaw-breaking punch from Enemkpali. The ridiculous fight stemmed over $600 that Smith owes Enemkpali for an airline ticket.
While Smith sits sidelined for the next 6-10 weeks, the show must go on. During Thursday’s preseason opener, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick started behind center, and he is already tabbed as the Week 1 starter. While he only played in one series, Fitzpatrick looked sharp, completing 2 of 3 passes.
Smith’s job was never ironclad to begin with, and if Fitzpatrick maintains a high level of play, the third-year quarterback might not hit the field at all this year.
Also noteworthy is how the players are taking to Fitzpatrick. They seem to be realizing he has the maturity to be a true and respected team leader. This is something that Smith has always lacked.
Wide receiver Brandon Marshall—who has always hyped up and supported Smith since starting with the Jets—is suddenly singing a different tune (via ESPN):
“I’m just moving forward. I think the whole team is moving forward. I think you’ll hear that echoed throughout this locker room. It’s time for us to move forward and play ball.”
“I think everyone around the league knows he’s [Fitzpatrick] a really smart guy and we all saw that.”
According to head coach Todd Bowles, the players spoke about Fitzpatrick’s poise and that they liked the way he didn’t get frazzled during huddles.
Guard Willie Colon also spoke highly of Fitzpatrick:
“He believes in us and we believe in him. It’s kind of a smooth groove, if you will.”
Overall, the tone around the locker room is not so sympathetic towards Smith but more of a “next man up” attitude. Fitzpatrick, who is on his sixth NFL team, is hardly the dream quarterback for the Jets. However, he does bring calm leadership, which is something that Smith has never been able to foster in his first two-plus years.
Marshall’s comments regarding the team “moving on” from Smith are interesting considering how the two were BFF’s over the offseason. The pair even roomed together once Marshall was traded. However, we know from recent experience on Marshall’s part that he is not afraid to throw his quarterback under the bus at any time, such as he recently did with Jay Cutler.
As for Smith, it appears he will be the odd man out if Fitzpatrick can continue to produce at a decent level while providing that much-needed leadership the Jets players have been craving for the last few years.