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Palladino: Punch-Out Will Cost Geno Smith His Jets Career

By Ernie Palladino
» More Ernie Palladino Columns

The last, crowning glory to the Geno Smith-IK Enemkpali drama won't happen until the end of the season, when the Jets finally unburden themselves of a quarterback who lacks the skills, maturity or respect to last in the NFL.

Mike Maccagnan and Todd Bowles can't pull that trigger yet. But rest assured, unless Ryan Fitzpatrick falls flat on his face or gets hurt, Smith will probably never leave the Jets' bench again. Even after he returns from the jaw surgery that fixed the two fractures Enemkpali created with one well-placed punch in the locker room, Smith's role won't be -- or at least shouldn't be -- more than a space-filler.

He becomes a rarity now, the experienced backup nobody wants to see. And that's something in a league where thousands invariably chant for the second-string quarterback during troubled times. Crowds love those guys. Just ask Jeff Hostetler, or Nick Foles, or Matt Cassel.

But who is going to cry out for Smith? If Fitzpatrick proves an abject failure, Bowles may have to use Smith after all. But he will enter, if not to boos, then to silence. Worse, with the knowledge that he has no sympathy behind him, and only a slim thread of support from the coaching staff.

You see, nobody wants a quarterback who does not command respect. And certainly, nobody wants a punch line (pun intended).

If the reports leaking out about the dust-up are accurate, Smith triggered the whole thing with his smugness in refusing to pay back the $600 airline and limo tab Enemkpali laid out for Smith before he bailed on a youth football camp appearance. Thursday's stories quoted locker room sources who indicated Smith stuck his finger in Enemkpali's face, a sure way to get oneself a belt in the beezer.

That doesn't exactly foster respect from one's peers. Adding that $600 to a quarterback making $1.3 million looks like candy store money makes it obvious that Smith is not only not a defuser of situations, he's an inflamer.

That's not how quarterbacks lead.

The typical piling-on has started among the talking heads, many blaming Smith for his own troubles. They, obviously, hold little respect for him.

Neither does Rex Ryan.

Exactly one day after Enemkpali KO'd Smith, Ryan signed the kid. He always did like his players feisty, and the fact that Enemkpali came cheap didn't hurt, either.

But more than getting a little more camp competition for the Bills, the signing allowed Ryan to symbolically raise a middle finger to his former employers.

For all his phony talk about Smith's potential the last two years, Ryan was never about to slap Geno's jersey number over his wife's tattooed image on his arm. The eminent John Idzik forced Smith down his throat, and it cost Ryan his job.

Bowles is under no such constraint. Smith is not Maccagnan's choice.

The kid is alone.

On an island.

Victimized as much by a childish mentality as Enemkpali's clenched fist.

If Bowles could afford to cut him right now, he probably would. Luckily for Smith, he can't.

But when he can, Smith's done here.

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