The New York Jets have been known for losing football and for dysfunction for years, even before outspoken head coach Rex Ryan was making headlines with comments that he made during press conferences and with his actions during games. Gang Green has became involved in what will likely be one of the most bizarre non-Deflategate stories of the 2015 National Football League season during the second week of August when linebacker IK Enemkpali rocked quarterback Geno Smith with a punch that broke Smith’s jaw and sidelined the QB for up to two months. There is now speculation that Smith will never again start a game for the Jets.
What a mess.
Even before it was learned that Smith could be lost up through the middle of October if not through Halloween, groups of (classless) Jets fans were celebrating the fact that the quarterback who has struggled throughout the bulk of his NFL career would not be lining up under center when the games begin to count. The story that made Enemkpali a household name – one that fans cannot necessarily spell or even say correctly – led to interesting sports talk radio conversations around the United States: Which starting NFL quarterbacks out there deserve to be punched even more than Smith regardless of whatever he did to set Enemkpali off on that fateful day?
Some of the candidates who have upset teammates with lackluster play on the field and also a lack of leadership inside of huddles and in the locker room are more obvious than others. They include a man who has taken several steps back in his career since winning Offensive Rookie of the Year honors, a quarterback who could find himself looking for new work as soon as March 2016. Then, there is a QB who was awarded with one of the more controversial contracts in all of the NFL a couple of years ago, a veteran who has, at times, lost the hearts and minds of those around him.
10. Tom Brady
All that New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady had to do following the 2015 AFC Championship Game was shrug his shoulders, offer a smile, say “you got me, fellas,” accept whatever monetary fine the NFL would have given him over some deflated footballs, and this whole matter would have been lost to history and to trivia questions asked years from now. Brady has instead chosen to fight the “Deflategate” issue to the death, and doing so may cost him and the Patriots four starts that could have serious ramifications if New England struggles in New England. C’mon, Tom. You’re better than this.
9. Jameis Winston
Odds are that you remember the multiple Jameis Winston stories that you heard and/or read about during his days at Florida State. Winston has, to his credit, not faced serious legal charges due to allegations made against him during his days in college, and he has, by all accounts, kept his nose clean and remained out of negative spotlights since being drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. That is all well and good, but a shot to the mouth may not hurt Winston at this stage of his development. Perhaps the Cleveland Browns would be better off today had a teammate nailed Johnny Manziel with a punch in August 2014.
8. Cam Newton
The criticism that is often thrown the way of Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is harsh and, in some cases, downright ridiculous. With that said, Newton has no business even considering getting into fights with teammates during preseason practice sessions. It does not matter that Newton is not your average quarterback in size and stature. He is meant to be the franchise quarterback of the Panthers, and it would be absurd if he were to suffer even a minor injury because he thought it wise to “motivate” those around him by riling teammates up and throwing down in practice.
7. E.J. Manuel
It was only a couple of years ago when E.J. Manuel was being advertised as the next franchise quarterback of the Buffalo Bills. Manuel now, in the dog days of the summer of 2015, finds himself falling down the depth chart, relegated to third-team duties and flirting with being cut by the Bills before the regular season officially begins. Say whatever you will about his physical gifts and about the lack of talent around him. It just, for whatever reasons, has not yet clicked for Manuel. A punch to the face may not help him find his way, but Manuel should not be turning any suggestions down at this point.
6. Jimmy Clausen
It is one of the most famous smirks in the history of NFL Draft tales. Notre Dame product Jimmy Clausen slid down overall draft boards and off of team’s lists in 2010 in part because of a dumb smirk that cost him millions upon millions of dollars. The perception that has been put out there over the past five years is that Clausen, who has yet to prove that he is capable of winning in the NFL, is talented but a jerk. Look up “Jimmy Clausen” and “jerk” via your favorite search engine if you are unaware of the stories. The Chicago Bears may need Clausen to play in 2015, all because the man who is featured later in this piece may again fail his team.
5. Philip Rivers
It has, for years, been a poorly kept secret that players around the NFL view Philip Rivers as a jerk and a player that they would throw a punch at if presented with that opportunity. Rivers, to his credit, is well-liked in his locker room, and he has left no doubt that he has the goods to be a starting NFL quarterback who can lead an offense to the postseason. He has, however, never taken a step into greatness as have the likes of Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger, and his bravado and supposed ego have never been justified in that Rivers has not won anything of merit.
4. Andy Dalton
His teammates have had his back time and time again, but that is eventually going to change if Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton continues to let his teammates down once December becomes January. Dalton has not yet earned the money that was presented to him by the Bengals a couple of years ago, and he had better realize that his contract gives Cincinnati an option to cut ties with him after the 2016 regular season. There is talent on the roster of the Bengals, and the team having maybe the second-worst quarterback in the AFC North is not going to sit well with those inside of the locker room for long.
3. Tony Romo
It was in July of 2015 when superstar Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant and quarterback Tony Romo talked about a “brotherly” relationship that the two have shared over the years. We have seen Bryant get visibly frustrated with his QB, most notably when Romo has tossed costly interceptions during December games, and Bryant has not always been the best of teammates who was all-in on the cause. Add in the reality that brothers, blood or otherwise, fight from time to time, and that makes it a rather believable notion that Romo could end up taking a punch before all is said and done.
2. Robert Griffin III
It could be only a matter of time before Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III gets punched, and that strike will more likely than not come from a teammate. Reports emerged in 2014 that Griffin, once the Offensive Rookie of the Year, has alienated some within the locker room of the Redskins, and he has even been called a “diva” by individuals with inside knowledge. Head coach Jay Gruden has not had the highest of praise for Griffin since taking the Washington job, and some who cover the league have suggested that Gruden could move on from RG3 before the current preseason wraps up.
1. Jay Cutler
Those “Smoking Jay Cutler” Internet memes exist for real reasons. Cutler physically has all of the tools to be a star quarterback in the NFL, but he has never risen to that level for reasons that seemingly have more to do with him than with those around him. The Chicago Bears quarterback has been criticized by former coaches, he was allegedly called out by wide receiver Brandon Marshall inside of the locker room after a loss, and his leadership qualities have been questioned. You probably would not have to look far and wide inside of the NFL community to find somebody who would want to punch Cutler.