Ryan Fitzpatrick might just be the easiest man to root for in the NFL today. You probably know the story by now: drafted in the 7th round out of Harvard, a career backup turned franchise savior living an NFL fairytale dream. His long, lumberjack beard can be found on any regular guy in the stands at Ralph Wilson Stadium. He is not pretty. Don’t hold your breath on the GQ cover spread featuring Ryan Fitzpatrick. He is as Buffalo as Buffalo itself, we hear often about how Millionaires play with a blue collar attitude, but with Ryan Fitzpatrick it seems to be true. I have watched every game Fitzpatrick has started in Buffalo and I can remember him sliding twice. That is not an exaggeration. Bills fans love Fitzpatrick because it is almost like someone from the factory downtown grew a beard and happened to have a rocket on his right shoulder. We love him because he is like one of us.
For a while, Bills fans loved him because he could play as well. After years of Trent Edwards (or captain check down) to have a true gunslinger was a welcome sight to Bills fans. We saw Fitzpatrick in true gunslinger form last Sunday, as he threw for 4 Touchdowns…. and 4 interceptions. So continues the story of Ryan Fitzpatrick. Smart, tough, and wildly inconsistent.
So the question that the Buffalo Bills, and to a degree their fans, will have to explore in the coming years is this: can you win a Super bowl with Ryan Fitzpatrick?
I still believe that if you have a great defense, a great running game, and your quarterback is not elite you can win a Super Bowl. So the question is not if Ryan Fitzpatrick is elite or not, anyone with two functioning eyes can tell you he’s not, but with a great defense, and a great running game, is he the one who can win Buffalo a Super Bowl? As the evidence of his inconsistency mounts, I’m not willing to say that it’s time to pull the trigger on the Ryan Fitzpatrick era, but it is at least time to shine the spotlight on the issue.
First, the positives of Ryan Fitzpatrick: maybe the Harvard educated thing is over played a little bit, but he does make the right read play in and play out. The issue is not the decision making. He works well in Chan Gailey’s offense, which specializes in quick slants and screens. Fitzpatrick has the confidence to make a quick decision and an authoritative throw. The toughness was discussed earlier. Fitzpatrick is fairly mobile and will fight and claw for an extra yard or two. Through the negative words said about Fitzpatrick, his 12 touchdowns lead the NFL. When he, and the rest of the 11th ranked offense is good, they are very good.
Now, to the negatives: Fitzpatrick is smart and makes quick decisions about where the ball should go, that does not mean he necessarily gets the ball out quickly. If you think Tim Tebow’s windup is bad, watch some Ryan Fitzpatrick game film. His windup is more elaborate then Dontrelle Willis. The problem is never decision making, but if he is actually good enough physically to get the ball where it needs to be. Gunslingers in the past have had arm strength to fit the name of the label disposed upon them. Ryan Fitzpatrick has a gunslinger attitude without the gunslinger arm. His deep ball is not great, and he has the occasional mid to short-range throw that makes you wonder if he thinks the Bills are playing Cornell or Yale. Those, “are you an NFL quarterback?” throws can come at any time, in any situation, and the scares Bills fans to death.
A pet peeve of mine in sports has always been blindly calling for the heads of coaches, general managers, or prominent players. If you want someone out, tell me who should replace him. If you don’t have a replacement in line, shut up. There is no replacement for Ryan Fitzpatrick lined up that can do better than him right now. To call for the benching of Ryan Fitzpatrick would be foolish, but make no mistake, the Buffalo Bills are at a cross roads in their season, and the career of Ryan Fitzpatrick. In my mind, Fitzpatrick is auditioning for his job from now until the end of the season. At 2-2 this season could go either way. So to could the fortune of Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Fitzpatrick signed a 6-year contract extension last year. To even explore getting rid of him would place a big financial burden on a team that just dropped north of $100 Million on a defensive end who has one sack through four games. Getting rid of Ryan Fitzpatrick might not even be feasible. I will root for nothing more then for Ryan Fitzpatrick to return to his early 2011 form and take over the NFL, because all of the traits that make him so likable I happen to be a tremendous sucker for. If the inconsistency continues; however, a change may need to be explored.