Ryan Fitzpatrick signed with a new team today.
This is hardly a surprisingly development. A similar headline crossed newswires in 2005, 2007, 2010, 2013, 2014 and 2015. This is Fitzpatrick’s thing. When the Bucs cut Fitzpatrick in a year or two and he resurfaces with one last team as a 36-year-old “mentor” (gotta put that Harvard education to good use, after all), he will have played for exactly one quarter of the teams in the NFL.
But before Fitzpatrick moves onto the Bucs and starts walking away with scenes this summer on Hard Knocks (just watch, he’ll be great on that show), let’s have a final reflection on the strange odyssey that was his two-year tenure with the New York Jets.
If you’re a sad Jets fan like me, Fitzpatrick leaves behind a, well, complicated legacy. You can neatly divide his tenure with the team in two halves: The first 15 games of the 2015 season on one side. The ’15 season finale and his 14 appearances (including 11 starts) in 2016 on the other. On one end, the Jets were 10-5. On the other, 4-11.
In between those two splits is what historians will ultimately consider the dumbest contract impasse in NFL history. Who will blink first?! The also-ran team that doesn’t realize it was way worse than its previous season’s record indicated? Or the journeyman quarterback with zero outside leverage and a rock-solid track record of statistical mediocrity? Stay tuned for the dramatic conclusion!
After a forever staredown that lasted through the entire offseason program, Fitzpatrick got a 300 percent one-year raise and New York successfully avoided locking itself into a long-term deal that would be so obviously doomed even the Jets could sniff it out.
And then Fitzpatrick followed one of the best seasons by a quarterback in franchise history with perhaps the worst.
The power of Fitzmagic weakened considerably when he threw three fourth-quarter interceptions in the ’15 season finale loss to the Bills, a meltdown that cost New York a playoff spot. The magic was gone for good when Fitzpatrick unleashed a six-interception apocalypse against the Chiefs in Arrowhead in Week 3 last season.
It was all over after that. Fitzpatrick was benched a couple weeks later, only he kept reappearing in the lineup as injuries chomped into New York’s quarterback depth chart. He was like Michael Myers from the Halloween movies, only instead of killing horny teenagers, he just repeatedly turned the ball over at deeply inopportune times.
For Jets fans, it all happened both in slow motion and at the speed of light. One year, Fitzpatrick was setting the franchise’s touchdown record and charming the pants off pathetic fanboys. The next year, he was as dead as Jimmy Hoffa to the denizens of the Meadowlands. And to think, it all started because a hothead fringe linebacker busted Geno Smith’s jaw over an unpaid airline ticket.
There were great moments, there were terrible moments, there was some high comedy mixed in between. Ryan Fitzpatrick may be the journeyman of his generation, a man without a country, a man who belongs to no one team.
But give him this: He might be the Jetsiest Jet that there ever was.