Geno Smith didn't deserve the broken jaw he received on Tuesday morning at the New York Jets practice facility, a gutless act from a player who deserved to be cut. But it didn't have to be this way if the Jets quarterback had acted like a man and a leader.
His need now for dental work is inexcusable. It was also avoidable.
No matter what Smith did or didn't do, the cold-cock, sucker-punch from teammate IK Enemkpali was by no means excusable or tolerable. He was beaten down for money he owed, or what amounts to one-tenth of one percent of Enemkpali's salary - about what Enemkpali makes as a professional athlete in a little more than two hours of work during a standard 40-hour work week. No way Smith deserves to be assaulted this way, no way. Not for anything and definitely not for this.
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But he's the leader and quarterback of this team and should hold himself as such.
Whether he wants to be or not, being a quarterback in the NFL means that responsibility is going to be placed on your shoulders. When a quarterback speaks, others should listen. It also means that he has to not only act the part and say the right things, he needs to be that man who others will follow.
It means taking responsibility on a personal level and not saying 'we' after throwing multiple interceptions to lose a game. An example must always be set to the point where this quarterback-leader isn't late to meetings because of going to a movie.
It also plays out by paying your debts, a piddly sum by NFL standards, but by doing things large and small to make sure you have the moral high ground to lead. Smith could have taken care of the money he owed his now former teammate very easily with a quick stop by the ATM at the team hotel. Instead he played it out then looked childish with his fingers in Enemkpali's face.
Leadership doesn't just happen, it comes with maturity. Smith wanted to be an NFL quarterback and through two seasons in the league he has barely played like one. He also hasn't acted like one. Respect is earned and he didn't handle this the right way.
If he wanted to be a leader he would have done the right thing long before. It doesn't excuse him being assaulted but it shows that he didn't know how to lead or what it took to be a leader.
That his teammates didn't come to his defense publicly yesterday or in the locker room is telling. Their silence on Smith as a quarterback resonates loud and clear. He wasn't respected by them.
He didn't earn their trust. He hadn't become a leader.
And now he never will.