I watched every second of Jets football last season -- and have the therapy bills to prove it -- and I don’t recall ever coming across the not-very-easy-to-forget name of Ikemefuna Enemkpali. Until yesterday, that is, when I looked him up after the APB went out from every sports and news website in America.
There’s some dispute whether Enemkpali officially had two or three tackles for Gang Green last year, but, even with that gnawing uncertainty, it can be safely said that he didn’t have much of an impact on the Jets’ wretched 2014 campaign.
However, Enemkpali has made a pretty big dent in the team’s 2015 season already, courtesy of the one he made in Geno Smith’s jaw. One might be tempted to ask why two 1-percenters were risking their careers in a fight over $600, just as one might’ve questioned how a quarterback could be knocked unconscious by his lineman’s posterior; or how any NFL team could hire Rich Kotite as head coach fresh off a 7-game losing streak in Philly; or, for that matter, how any owner could tap John Idzik to mow his lawn, let alone put him in charge of the whole operation. The answer to all these queries is, of course, painfully simple: because it’s the J-E-T-S.
But this time it may not be more of the same for one of the most cursed franchises in pro sports. After all, ask yourself this, Jets fans: Who would you rather have under center -- Geno Smith (a healthy one, that is) or Ryan Fitzpatrick?
Yes, Fitzpatick defines the term “journeyman.” But it’s not like the 32-year-old Harvard grad’s journey has been something out of a “Vacation” movie. Last year, after putting up decent numbers while spending the previous few seasons starting for Buffalo and Tennessee, Fitzpatrick enjoyed the best showing of his decade-long NFL career for the Texans. In 12 starts, he threw 17 touchdown passes against only eight interceptions, finishing the season with a 95 passer rating that ranked ninth in the league. Smith, on the other hand, ranked 29th.
Fitzpatrick isn’t the QB of the future for Gang Green, and, if he goes down, it looks pretty scary for first-year head coach Todd Bowles. Only rookies Bryce Petty -- a fourth-round draft pick who put up prodigious numbers in a pass-happy offense at Baylor -- and Jake Heaps -- undrafted after eye-catching mediocrity as the rare college journeyman (playing under center at BYU, Kansas and Miami) -- are currently behind Fitzpatrick on the depth chart. Did you ever think you’d be yearning for Matt Simms?
And I look forward to Smith making it all the way back from injury after a sucker-punch by Enemkpali, who was drafted out of Louisiana Tech by Idzik a few years after being arrested for hitting a cop.
But can anyone really argue that Smith has proven to be a better QB than Fitzpatrick?