Jets still a punch line, minus the laughs, after Geno Smith breaks jaw

ByIAN O'CONNOR
August 12, 2015, 11:02 AM

— -- As a college football player at Louisiana Tech, IK Enemkpali threw a punch that crashed against the head of an off-duty cop who was working security at a bar. If it is unclear exactly what the linebacker told the New York Jets about the 2011 incident in the spring of 2014, this was his explanation to ESPN.com's Rich Cimini after the team drafted him in the sixth round:

"I lost my cool. That's what it was. I didn't know he was undercover, which is no excuse, but ... Yeah, I lost my cool."

The incident report from the Lincoln Parish Sheriff's Office in Ruston, Louisiana, quotes a police officer who arrived on the scene describing the cop who would be assaulted by Enemkpali, Hezekiah Perry, as wearing a hat and shirt marked by the word "Police," and as verbally identifying himself as a police officer. No, that description does not match up with anyone's definition of "undercover."

The report later quotes Perry saying that Enemkpali became angry when denied entrance because he was accompanied by a male who wasn't of legal drinking age, that he threw one punch that missed, and then another one that didn't. In between the punches, Perry said he pepper-sprayed Enemkpali. The witnessing officer then used his Taser on Enemkpali and arrested him.

Enemkpali ultimately received a suspended jail sentence on a charge of simple battery, and was placed on probation and ordered to complete community service and an anger management course.

Three years after the incident, John Idzik and Rex Ryan made Enemkpali the 210th pick in the draft. In the end, the Jets probably figured Enemkpali's talent was worth the kind of gamble nobody would take in the earlier rounds. Of course, the general manager and coach were run out of there before finding out the Jets would've been much better off with Enemkpali in another line of work.

The reserve linebacker was fired by the new guys running the Jets, Todd Bowles and Mike Maccagnan, after he sucker punched the starting quarterback, Geno Smith, and broke his jaw and knocked him out for six to 10 weeks. A furious Bowles declined to identify the specific root of the dispute -- ESPN's Adam Schefter reported it was over $600 Enemkpali believed Smith owed him -- but the coach called it "something very childish, something that sixth-graders could have talked about."

Though Bowles later told reporters at the team's facility that no Jet deserves "another opportunity when you sucker punch a guy and break his jaw," he made it clear he wasn't happy with Smith, either. "It takes two to tango," Bowles said, and the rookie coach probably has no idea that Jets fans are beyond sick and tired of this pathetic dance.

Smith posted on his Instagram account a picture of his steely-eyed, determined self behind the wheel of the car with the message, "ILL BE BACK!" As dramatic announcements go, it didn't quite measure up to Gen. Douglas MacArthur's ("I shall return") or Michael Jordan's ("I'm back").

No, Smith didn't deserve to get sucker punched by Enemkpali any more than Roger Staubach deserved to get sucker punched by his backup, Clint Longley, in a different time and place in the NFL. But then again, Staubach would never have missed a pregame meeting while eating buttered popcorn in a movie theater.

Smith appears to be as clueless as ever and, frankly, the same could be same of the Jets. Sheldon Richardson, a great football player, had already embarrassed the organization this summer before Smith, a not-so-great football player, contributed (in some way) to a fight that did the same.

"Unfortunately," Nick Mangold said, "it puts a perception out there that things are running amok." The center maintained that this was an isolated incident.

Only here's the problem: The Jets always lead the league in isolated incidents. No matter how many noisemakers they eventually send out the door, from Rex Ryan to Santonio Holmes, nothing ever changes.

Bowles and Maccagnan were supposed to make a difference, and they sure come across as earnest and level-headed football men. They're local, too, Jersey Guys who have seen their fair share of Jets dysfunction up close and personal.

But it's one thing to see it, quite another to live it. Bowles and Maccagnan seemed to be smart hires by Woody Johnson, finally, if only because they looked ready to de-Woody-ize the franchise. In other words, make the Jets more like the Giants.

The Jets are extremely sensitive to how they're perceived, by the way, and a few team officials might point out that Jason Pierre-Paul just blew up his hand (and did a very Jetsian thing by refusing to communicate with team officials afterward) while under the employ of John Mara, Tom Coughlin and Jerry Reese. Fine. No organization is perfect.

The Jets? They're the most imperfect team around. The New York Knicks have won two championships since the Jets went one and done at the Super Bowl, and man, that's pretty bad.

Their fans deserve so much better than this, and maybe someday Bowles and Maccagnan and even ol' Woody will deliver them that second trip to the Super Bowl. But those fans aren't asking for the Super Bowl. They're asking only for competence, and just a little respect.

The Jets don't want to be treated like a complete joke? Maybe they should stop acting like one.

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