FLORHAM PARK, NJ - Ryan Fitzpatrick has been at this quarterbacking thing for along time. Fitzpatrick is enetering his 11th season as an NFL quarterback and through those years he has shown himself to be an average quarterback with both glaring strengths and weaknesses. For fans wondering what could possibly turn this average quarterback into something much better at this stage of his career, Fitzpatrick thinks he has the answer.
"I think what he's (Todd Bowles) saying there is, me understanding who I am as a quarterback, what things I'm good at, what things I'm not. Just really catering to the things that I excel at," Fitzpatrick said. "Eliminating some of the bad plays, whether it was a bad throw or a bad decision, eliminating that today, tomorrow and before we get to the game on Sunday. So, I've got my decisions set out and I'm making the right ones on Sunday. Just the way that I'm thinking about the game maybe is a little different now than it was five years ago."
Every player, heck every person, has their strengths and weaknesses it's only when you learn what those are and how to navigate around your weaknesses and play to your strengths that you can become your best self.
"Every week, every game, you have to go in with complete command of the game plan, (and) know everything that's going on. Have stuff catered to the way I like it as a quarterback going into the game," Fitzpatrick said. "One of the things with me, is knowing my strengths and weaknesses and making sure that we're playing to my strengths. We have a lot of talent on our side of the ball and we're excited to get out there and show it."
One of the strengths Fitzpatrick will have to lean on is the talent around him. With a strong running game, and offensive line that protected him well in the preseason and an extremely quarterback friendly receiving core Fitzpatrick will have plenty of opportunity to take advanatge of those strenths. Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker are a perfect pair of starting receivers, both can win on the outside and run every route in the playbook but they can also both take turns lining up in the slot to take advanatge of their size and physicality to give Fitzpatrick plenty of viable options. Both receivers have great hands and can make tough catches in traffic and Marshall imparticular will give Fitzpatrick a great short-yardage and red zone threat to use as needed.
Still Fitzpatrick knows it doesn't matter how good his weapons are, it's still up to him to avoid mistakes and get the job done and in order to do that he needs to have learned from past mistakes and improve by playing to what he now knows are his strengths.
"To be honest, I think most of you guys know most of them (his areas in need of improvement). I've seen plenty of articles where you guys pointed them out (laughter). I mean there's plenty of stuff, but decision making, there's so much that goes into that so it's hard to put it on one or two things," Fitzpatrick said. "But decision making, I think I've come a long way just in terms of whether it's matchups or whether it's me knowing throws that I'm good at versus throws that I'm not good at, that kind of stuff."
This may be Bowles's first year as a head coach but he's been a defensive coach in this league for a long time and he has seen plenty of Fitzpatrick throughout his career. He's seen the good and the bad but Bowles thinks Fitzpatrick having a better handle on exactly who he is as a quarterback will go along way to giving this offense a chance to succeed.
"Personally, I think he is in a good place as a quarterback at this stage in his career," Bowles said. "I think he's comfortable with who he is and he understands offense and what's around him. He's going to take what you give him. Maybe early on in his career, he was trying to force some balls in, but he's in a good place. He understands the offense pretty well and he's jelling with everybody."
Fitzpatrick has a reputation as a cerebral quarterback, graduating from Harvard will give you that label, and he is absolutely a cerebral quarterback in many ways but typically being labeled a cerebral quarterback means you protect the football and avoid turnovers. Fitzpatrick has not fit that definition of cerebral once in his entire career. Fitzpatrick has started over 10 games a year since the 2008 season with the Bengals, since then he has had 93 interceptions and 34 fumbles (a total of 127 turnovers) in 101 games. You don't need a degree from Harvard to realize turnovers have been one of Fitzpatrick's biggest weaknesses and he knows he has to eliminate the turnovers if he wants to hold onto the starting job.
"I think that's part of it. I think that's a huge thing for us every week is going to be eliminating turnovers, eliminating sacks, the good stuff on third down and in the red zone, that's the stuff that's going to happen," Fitzpatrick said. "Turnovers, sacks they're going to happen, you wantto keep them to a minimum. We're going to focus on that, but then also how you respond when it happens and making sure that people aren't hanging their heads and are moving on and we're staying confident.
"Part of it is, as quarterbacks I think we're all a little too hardheaded too. 'I think I can do everything and I want to be superman, I want to do all that.' But, there is a learning process and you come to the realization that you have to focus on the things that will make you successful."
With this defense and the weapons surrounding Fitzpatrick he doesn't have to be anything close to superman and embracing that is the best thing he can do to help this Jets offense succeed this year.
Chris Nimbley is the Editor-in-Chief and lead writer for JetsInsider.com. He can be reached on Twitter (@cnimbley) or via email (firstname.lastname@example.org)