Jets: Fitzpatrick Must Prove His Worth in Cleveland
Despite all the drama surrounding the New York Jets’ quarterback situation these past couple of weeks, it’s almost fitting that there would be no real decision to make for this Sunday’s game in Cleveland. After all, this is Jets land, and we’re accustomed to mediocrity at this point.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, of course, would like to believe he didn’t win the job by default after an injury that turned out to be a torn ACL sidelined Geno Smith Sunday against the Ravens. Fitzpatrick took over for Smith in the second quarter and the Jets eventually won. The veteran had harsh words for head coach Todd Bowles and owner Woody Johnson post-win.
“The biggest thing in this game, in order to last, is to have belief in yourself,” Fitzpatrick was quoted in the Daily News. “Because when the owner stops believing in you, and the GM stops believing in you, and the coaches stop believing in you, sometimes all you have is yourself. That’s something I’ve had to deal with before. That’s something I’m dealing with now.”
Granted, Fitzpatrick did immediately help the Jets overcome a 13-7 deficit upon entering towards the end of the first half with an efficient drive that ended with a touchdown pass to Matt Forte. And despite falling behind via a Ravens field goal in the final seconds of the half, the Jets did eventually win, thanks to a third quarter field goal and touchdown.
But is Fitzpatrick’s indignation really warranted? Did he not expect that a benching could be a real possibility after throwing eleven interceptions in the first six games? On a team that carries four active quarterbacks, no less?
It might help his case when you take into consideration that no one else has been exactly stellar, either. The Jets’ defense, highly touted during the offseason, is currently 20th in the league (2,498 yards allowed). Fitzpatrick’s offensive line hasn’t helped him either, allowing him to be sacked twelve times thus far. His receivers have also been sub-par, at best; Brandon Marshall is averaging only 67.4 yards per game, with Quincy Enunwa not far behind at 58.4.
The rhetoric is the same league-wide, however; the quarterback winds up taking the heat for a struggling team, as the de facto captain of the ship, which, according to Marshall last week, he was willing to “go down with.”
And the SS Fitz did go down gradually, week after week, beginning with a career-high six interceptions in Kansas City in Week 3, and ending with an embarrassing fourth-quarter benching in favor of Smith in Week 6 in Arizona. When all was said and done, the Jets were riding a four-game losing streak, seriously in danger of fading into irrelevancy with a 1-5 record.
Didn’t the organization owe the fans a look at one of the other three quarterbacks they insist on carrying? A shakeup, if nothing more? After all, the definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again while expecting different results.
That’s not to say that Geno Smith was or is any kind of answer, long-term or short-term, torn ACL or no torn ACL. Smith has proven nothing to the fans or the organization over the past three years, except for his seemingly innate ability to act like an adolescent while in the public eye. His fateful altercation with IK Enemkpali and his “I’m getting antsy” comments on the sidelines during Fitzpatrick’s struggles will forever be etched in the minds of Jet brass and fans alike, much like a teenage delinquent’s permanent record.
As fans, how many times do we cry for our highest-paid starters to sit when they’re not playing up to expectations? But the issue with that is always the same: We’re going to bench him, in favor of whom? Geno Smith, who might have a better arm, but no discipline? Bryce Petty or Christian Hackenberg? Maybe when the Jets are mathematically eliminated, but not when the team would like to believe it still has a pulse. Neither youngster was even dressed this past Sunday, which is an indication of the organization’s belief that they both simply aren’t ready yet.
Bowles’ response to Fitzpatrick’s sophomoric rant last Sunday mirrored the sentiments of Jets fans: if benching him made him angry enough to motivate him to play better, then perhaps it served its purpose. Fitzpatrick can start proving his right to be angry by beating the 0-6 Browns this Sunday, because his martyr act isn’t impressing anyone yet. Benching seemed to be an effective punishment two years ago when Fitzpatrick played for the Texans; two weeks after losing his job to Ryan Mallett, he was reinstated and responded to the critics with six touchdown passes.
Time will tell if Fitzpatrick can get his act together enough to help the Jets make a run, or at least play a few more meaningful games and draw a crowd to the stadium. Because, at least at this point, there are no other options. And sometimes that’s how you win, or keep, a job.
It’s how he won it in the first place, and it’s why the Jets re-signed him.