Part of being a New Yorks Jets fan is realizing that you’re a second-class citizen. For one blissful off-season, which saw the Jets hire a new general manager, coach, the return of Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie, and arguably the best draft out of all the teams, it seemed like the 2015 season could be the start of something fresh. There was no more Super Bowl wins being guaranteed; just Todd Bowles and Mike Maccagnan as the latest head coach – GM duo given the often ill-fated responsibility of bringing the Jets to respectability.
Sure, Geno Smith, a leftover from the old Rex Ryan – John Idzik regime, did not show much promise that he could be a successful quarterback on a playoff team, but he was the de facto starting quarterback entering pre-season with a solid back-up (Ryan Fitzpatrick) and a young rookie (Bryce Petty) waiting should Geno fail. And then the realization hit: this was still a second-class team. It started with Sheldon Richardson being suspended in early July for failing a marijuana test and continued when, a few weeks later, Richardson fled from the cops at the cool pace of over 140 miles per hour and was subsequently arrested.
Then the injuries hit. Antonio Allen, beloved for one pick six of Tom Brady in 2013, went down for the season when he tore his Achilles. Dee Milliner dislocated his wrist the same day, and will miss at least six weeks. But the Jets were solid enough defensively that, as long as Revis and Cromartie stayed healthy, their secondary would still be incredibly good.
Enter IK Enemkpali to solidify where the Jets stood in the grand scheme of things. In a dispute which Bowles described as “something that sixth-graders could have talked about,” the sixth-round draft pick from 2014 slugged the quarterback in the face, breaking his jaw and possibly any chance for Smith to become a successful starting quarterback.
This is the Jets at an all-time low, which they seem to go out of their way to discover new depths to which they wish to drag down their fans. While incidents such as Plaxico Burress shooting himself and Jason Pierre-Paul blowing off his finger with fireworks on Independence Day prove that even the most model of franchises can have their bad apples, because of the success of the crosstown rivals, whenever it happens it is viewed as a “you never know” type incident. Like winning an unfortunate lottery.
Ever since Joe Namath ran off the field at the end of Super Bowl III with his finger pointing to the sky, it has, is, and for the forseable future will be a “what else can go wrong” mentality, and this is the latest edition. It was bad when Vinny Testaverde tore his Achilles in the opening game of the 1999 season, a rare season in which they entered as one of the favorites to win the Super Bowl. It was unfortunate that Chad Pennington, woeful as his arm strength was, (but my goodness, he’s the best quarterback the team has had in 15 seasons) dislocated his elbow in the pre-season and missed half of the 2003 season. The failed experiment with Brett Favre. Buttfumble. And now this; a quarterback lost for half the year due to friendly fire, over $600, in a locker room incident.
Hollywood writers dream of coming up with scripts like this.
It’s not a matter of whether or not Geno Smith was any good or not. He had, at most, five games to not screw up the job badly enough before Fitzpatrick (or Petty, most likely the former) replaced him. This is about being seen as a competent NFL team. Real teams don’t have their quarterbacks getting taken out by some barely-on-the-team linebacker. The fact that there was any incident is bad enough, but usually when there are fights or brawls in the NFL, it’s on the field of play, whether it is during a game, in warm-ups, or on the practice field. It’s not a “blessing in disguise” as some fans are foolishly calling it. It’s an example of how far the Jets, both this particular squad and as a franchise, need to mature before being taken seriously.