Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Jets: New York's Favorite Situation Comedy

At the end of the last calendar year, I rated the 9 major league sports teams of the New York Tri-State Area on their level of dysfucntion. The NFL's New York Jets came in at Number 1: The most dysfunctional.

With the firing of head coach Rex Ryan and general manager John Idzik, and their replacements by Todd Bowles and Mike Maccagnan, respectively, I thought that had changed, or at least reduced their level of dysfunction.

In the words of the immortal John Lennon, I shoulda known better.

Yesterday, at preseason training camp, they lost their starting quarterback for 6 to 10 weeks -- through Week 3 of the regular season, possibly to Week 7, and for all we know maybe longer than that -- over a matter of $600. Week 7 (the Jets' 6th game, counting a bye in Week 5) is away to the defending World Champions, the cheating New England Patriots.

This at a time when the Patriots will be without their cheating quarterback Tom Brady for the 1st 4 weeks, because he was caught cheating -- possibly giving the Jets, the Miami Dolphins and the Buffalo Bills a much better shot at winning the AFC Eastern Division.

Knowing the Jets, the Patriots will end up winning all 4 of those games anyway.

(The games are home to Pittsburgh, away to Buffalo, home to Jacksonville and away to Dallas. Even without Brady, all 4 are winnable, although only the Jacksonville game looks, by NFL standards, easy. Still, I wouldn't count on them going 1-3. And, even if they did, they could still win 9 of their last 12, finish 10-6, and still win the AFC East.)

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Based on what's been said thus far, here's the situation:

Eugene Cyril Smith III, better known as Geno Smith, is a 24-year-old quarterback, a native of Miami who grew up in the suburb of Miramar. He went to West Virginia University, and impressed the Jets enough for them to make him their 2nd Round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft.

Desperate for quarterbacks after their failed experiments with Mark Sanchez, Tim Tebow and Michael Vick, the Jets made him their starter in his rookie season. But he's been very inconsistent, looking great at times, looking shaky at more of them. He's been booed by the home fans at MetLife Stadium, and many view him as the worst starting quarterback in the League.

Nevertheless, Bowles told him, flat-out, that the starting quarterback's job was his to lose.

Ikemefuna Chindedum Enemkpali, better known as IK Enemkpali -- apparently, like CC Sabathia of the Yankees and the 20th Century American poet who went by "e e cummings,"  he prefers to drop the periods on his initials -- is a 24-year-old linebacker, a native of Texas and a son of Nigerian immigrants, who played at Louisiana Tech, and is now entering his 2nd season with the Jets. He played on only 3 games as a rookie last season. He has a sister, Nneka, who played basketball at the University of Texas, and is now a rookie with the WNBA's Seattle Storm.

While at Louisiana Tech, at age 19, he got into a bar fight. Why he was in a bar at age 19, I don't have that information. A police officer -- apparently not plainclothes, as was first reported, but openly identifying himself as such -- subdued him with pepper spray and a stun gun. Enemkpali punched the cop. He got 13 months' probation and 32 hours of community service. So, above and beyond the rough stuff that is a part of every football play, he has a history of off-field violence.

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Enemkpali, like many other football players do and have done over the years, hosts a summer football camp for kids in his hometown. He invited Geno Smith, now the Jets' starting quarterback. He even bought Smith a plane ticket, costing $600. All Enemkpali wanted was for Smith to come to the camp, demonstrate his quarterbacking skills (or his own perception of them) for the kids, and pay back the $600.

Then a friend of Smith's was killed in a motorcycle accident, and he went to Miami to attend the funeral instead of the camp. Understandable -- presuming, that is, he told Enemkpali why he couldn't come. (As far as we know, that isn't an issue.)

But Enemkpali still wanted his $600 back. Also understandable.

Reasonable men could work that out. To a 21st Century NFL player, especially a starting quarterback for a team representing New York, that's not much money. In the words of the immortal Jackie Gleason (in 1956, at a time when the figure was worth a lot more than it is now), "Six hundred dollars? Peanuts! Peanuts!"

Smith said he would pay it back.

And if hadn't yet gone any further than that, the general public wouldn't even be talking about this, because we almost certainly wouldn't know about it.

As of yesterday, at Jets training camp in East Hanover, Morris County, New Jersey, Smith hadn't yet paid back the money. Why not? At this point, it may no longer matter.

So there was an argument between the two of them in the locker room. Apparently, while Smith never touched Enemkpali, he did point a finger in Enemkpali's face.

Then Enemkpali threw a punch, breaking Smith's jaw.

At first, it was reported as a sucker punch, that Smith couldn't possibly have expected it. Now, it's being reported that Smith did point the finger in, but not on, Enemkpali's face. Not smart, even if the reaction was merely the same.

Bowles screamed at his team afterwards, telling them to, "Act like grown men," and telling the media that the situation was "childish." All-Pro center Nick Mangold called it "bizarre and frustrating." Darrelle Revis, back with the Jets after winning a tainted ring with the Patriots, said both players were responsible for what had happened.

Now, the Jets are hanging their quarterbacking hopes, at least in the short term, on Ryan Fitzpatrick, a 31-year-old Arizonan who went to Harvard -- clearly, he's too smart for the Jets -- and who was named Ivy League Most Valuable Player. In 2004.

Here's his NFL starting experience: 4 games with the 2005 St. Louis Rams, most of the season with the 2008 Cincinnati Bengals, most of the 2009 through 2012 seasons with the Bills, half the 2013 season with the Tennessee Titans, and the 1st half of 2014 with the Houston Texans before he was demoted.

If you're a Jet fan, are you encouraged?

Well, it's only for 3 games. Or 4. Or 5. Or 6. Or maybe more.

But then Geno comes back...

The job was Geno's to lose. Maybe he's lost it. They say, "Nobody loses a starting job due to injury." Yeah, tell that to Drew Bledsoe of the 2001 Patriots. Or Trent Green of the 1999 Rams. (Both teams went on to win the Super Bowl with their injury replacements.)

The Jets' dysfunction level was supposed to go down with the end of the Rex-periment. It hasn't.

But then, we're talking about the J, E, T, S, Jets, Jets, Jets here.

If they had never existed, and a Hollywood scriptwriter had written their history and pitched it as a sitcom, no studio would take it. It simply isn't believable.

But it's happened. And, once again, the Jets are New York's favorite situation comedy.

But Jet fans aren't laughing.

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