AFC East

The Evolution and Career of New York Jets’ Ryan Fitzpatrick

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - DECEMBER 27: Ryan Fitzpatrick #14 of the New York Jets throws a pass in the first quarter against the New England Patriots during their game at MetLife Stadium on December 27, 2015 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

Ryan Fitzpatrick has never been short of confidence dating all the way back to his Pop Warner football days. He did not have measurable or amazing athletic ability, but he had the grit that all football coaches look for in their players.

Fitzpatrick’s father has the memories of his son developing his toughness into the player he is today.

“He always was the kid from a very young age that would just stand in the pocket and just take like unbelievable shots just to finish the play, Like in Oklahoma drills or any kind of drills where there was hitting involved — he was cutting in line, he was trying to get to the front of the line so he could be the next one up to hit. He really liked lowering the boom on people when he was young,” stated Fitzpatrick’s father.

His high school football coach noticed the work effort that would eventually translate into opportunities Fitzpatrick would have as a professional. “He did everything the offensive lineman did. He’s bench pressing 300-pounds in high school, he’s  squatting 450 with the big guys. Not drawing attention to himself verbally, but the rest of the team watched what he did and they all picked up their work ethic as well,” stated Fitzpatrick’s coach.

Fitzpatrick did not have the prototypical size for a quarterback but he had the smarts and intangibles. Fitzpatrick’s play generated collegiate interest in him from schools such as Colorado, Colorado State and some Arizona schools, but he felt the best fit for his academics and athletics were with Harvard. Fitzpatrick’s father stated to Ryan “You realize what you’re giving up here,” and Fitzpatrick responded, “Dad, if I’m good enough, they’ll find me.”

While being an economics major at Harvard, Fitzpatrick had to be patient until it was his turn for the starting quarterback job. Fitzpatrick was the full time starter in his junior and senior seasons. As a junior, Fitzpatrick passed for 1,770 yards and 16 touchdowns along with 430 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns. As a senior, Fitzpatrick was the Ivy League MVP. Fitzpatrick passed for 1,986 yards with 13 touchdowns and rushed for 448 yards and five touchdowns. Harvard went 10-0 and won the Ivy League Championship in his senior season.

Fitzpatrick did not have any special measurable or numbers at the NFL combine, but did have the highest score ever for quarterbacks with a 48 out of 50 on the Wonderlic Test. Fitzpatrick was drafted by the St. Louis Rams in the seventh round of the 2005 NFL Draft as the 250th overall pick. This was the beginning of Fitzpatrick’s journeyman career as he played for five teams before landing with the New York Jets this past offseason.

With the Rams, Fitzpatrick started three games in the 2005 season and became the first Harvard quarterback to make a start in the NFL. Fitzpatrick was then traded to the Cincinnati Bengals in 2007. In the 2008 season an injury to Carson Palmer allowed Fitzparick to take over the starting job and play in 13 games that season. In 2009, Fitzpatrick left the Bengals and signed as a free agent with the Buffalo Bills. Fitzpatrick played four years for the team and was putting up the best statistics of his career and even earned a six year $59 million extension that he did not finish out the contract of. Fitzpatrick totaled over 11,000 yards, and 80 touchdowns during his time in Buffalo.

The journeyman quarterback then moved on from the Bills and signed with the Tennessee Titans in 2013. Fitzpatrick started in nine games for the injured Jake Locker and put up 2,454 yards with 14 touchdowns. The Titans would release Fitzpatrick after the season and he would sign with the Texans and earn the starting job. Fitzpatrick was benched for Ryan Mallet, but would retake the job when Mallet was injured. Fitzpatrick ended up fracturing his tibia, but finished with another 2,483 yards and 17 touchdowns.

When the New York Jets hired general manager Mike Maccagnan he was extremely aggressive from the start. He made splashes in free agency such as Brandon Marshall and Darrelle Revis, but one of the under the radar moves of the 2015 offseason was trading a conditional late round pick to the Houston Texans for Ryan Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick was reunited with his former head coach Chan Gailey who is now the offensive coordinator for the New York Jets. Fitzpatrick was intended to be the backup for Geno Smith, but when Geno Smith suffered a broken jaw from a teammate altercation, Fitzpatrick would take the starting job and run with it.

Ryan Fitzpatrick was the gem of the Jets’ 2015 offseason. Fitzpatrick went on to have one of the best seasons for a Jets’ quarterback in team history. Fitzpatrick gave Jets fans hope that there may be a short term answer at the quarterback position. Fitzpatrick brought the Jets to a 10-6 record and on the verge of a playoff berth in week 17. Fitzpatrick stats for the 2015 season were 3,905 passing yards, and 31 touchdowns with 270 yards rushing and two touchdowns. Fitzpatrick broke the Jets quarterback record for touchdowns in a season as well.

“That’s been my whole career, I’ve been the afterthought. I’ve gotten used to it. It’s kind of what everybody thinks. I like playing the role of the underdog. That’s fine with me. I just want to go out there and win. That’s it,” said Fitzpatrick.

Fitzpatrick had a career season with the New York Jets and the players around him loved him as a leader. Brandon Marshall has high praise for his quarterback who helped him have a career season as well with 1,502 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns. “It’s all about adjustments and he does that well. He sees the game well, and he communicates with us well,” said Marshall.

Fitzpatrick has helped head coach Todd Bowles and general manager Mike Maccagnan have an easier transition into their jobs. Bowles has high praise for his quarterback as he stated, “You can see it in his play, you can see it in his demeanor, his professionalism. Every day, the way he approaches his job. So, it’s somebody you definitely want around.”

Ryan Fitzpatrick has always had a chip on his shoulder from his days of first starting to play football to his latest season in the NFL. While Fitzpatrick may be at the tail end of his career, he may have found a home to finish out his career. Fitzpatrick loves playing for the Jets and the Jets love to play for him. Ryan Fitzpatrick is the true example of a journeyman quarterback and is an example for young football players to emulate his work ethic on and off the field. The Jets organization and Jets fans will be hoping for a return of Fitzmagic in 2016.

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