Ryan Fitzpatrick had himself a good season last year, great by his standards but merely good by typical NFL standards, yet because he threw for the most touchdowns in a single season in Jets history, fans, and some media members, mistook that record being broken to mean Fitzpatrick is actually a good quarterback instead of realizing that the Jets simply never had an even competent passing offense since the NFL turned into a passing league.
It's great to break a franchise record but 10 other quarterbacks in the NFL had at least 31 touchdowns as well last season and they weren't throwing to Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. Still, even including his dreadful performance in Buffalo that kept the Jets out of the playoffs, there's no denying Fitzpatrick had a career year last year but the thing is, that was exactly the problem going into this year.
A regression to the mean was inevitable, that's how these things work. Quarterbacks don't just suddenly turn into good quarterbacks in their 11th season in the league, a perfect storm of the right weapons, the right coordinator, lucky bounces (one writer counted 31 passes Fitzpatrick threw last year that could've/should've been intercepted) and an easy schedule can have a quarterback play above their potential for awhile but said quarterback will always revert back to what he really is. However, before he can even get there he's going to have to rummage around in the sewer for awhile to even out his prior year's performance. Again, that's simply how averages work.
That's why Fitzpatrick couldn't find any suitors on the open market, despite numerous teams having a need for even a competent quarterback, and it's why even when the Jets caved they only caved to the tune of $12 million. Well that and because other teams don't have Chan Gailey, Marshall or Decker and also because we had 10 previous years of proof that Fitzpatrick is just not a very good quarterback.
Yet somehow people are surprised by these last two weeks and granted he's not typically nine interceptions in two games bad (no one is because when they are they don't typically get a third game) but that's the part where he has to play well below his averages to even out only throwing 15 interceptions last year. The most frustrating part of how people view Fitzpatrick is the fact that because we know he has a limited arm and because we know he went to Harvard people assume he is a game manager who doesn't make mistakes. But if you've watched him throughout his career, and paid even the slightest bit of attention, you know that simply couldn't be further from the truth.
Fitzpatrick has always been a reckless gunslinger, he's Brett Favre without the cannon to actually get away with making bad reads. Favre would make passes that most quarterbacks should never even consider attempting, many times they turned out to be horrible decisions for him as well but sometimes his arm was just so strong he was able to make the play. Fitzpatrick plays with the same mentality as Favre but he lacks the ability to rip throws through the soul of a cornerback and into a tightly covered receivers hands.
Fitzpatrick is not a game manager, Alex Smith he is not despite people trying to make that misguided comparison. Before this season started Fitzpatrick had played in 112 games and thrown 116 interceptions (1.06 picks per game), before this season Alex Smith had thrown 83 interceptions in 126 games. Fitzpatrick is a very smart guy but that does not make him a smart quarterback.
You can try and explain how some of the nine picks he's thrown the last two weeks were late in the game as he was desperately trying to make something happen, but that ignores the facts that the reason they were behind was because of how badly he was playing and oh yeah, he had numerous other passes that could've easily been intercepted. Or instead you can decide the simplest explanation is usually the best explanation and that's the simple fact that Fitzpatrick is just not a good quarterback. But the worst part is, he's a bad quarterback who doesn't realize how bad he is.
"I know I'm the right guy for it (to turn things around for the offense). We've found ourselves in a little slump last year and came out of it," Fitzpatrick said. "Through all my experiences and all the things I've been through in my career, I know I'm the right guy to get this thing headed in the right direction."
All those experiences and not one of them involves the playoffs, last year was his first winning season, and sure they got out of the slump last year only to find themselves right back in another one (another three interception slump) in the most important game of the season. But okay, he's still got confidence in himself and you can't really knock him for that, you can wish he recognized his limitations better to avoid costly mistakes but overall no one should expect him to say he's not the guy to turn things around. But why should anyone else? What about his history would suggest he will actually be able to turn it around in a substantive way?
Fitzpatrick is in his 12th season, he is what he has always been and that's a below average quarterback who sometimes snaps and has a couple of great games but will always revert back to below average. Todd Bowles won't bench him now because to bench the quarterback that held out all offseason after only four games could send the message that they are giving up on the season, but the other side of that coin says sticking with a quarterback who continues to throw interceptions at a historic rate is also giving up on the season.
Bowles and Marshall appear ready to sink with the Fitzpatrick ship but if that ship keeps sinking next week they better abdanon ship and hop on a lifeboat otherwise the entire season will be forever lost at sea.
Chris Nimbley is the editor-in-chief of JetsInsider.com/NYJScout.com. He can be reached on Twitter (@cnimbley), or via email (firstname.lastname@example.org)