Ryan Fitzpatrick has his eyes set on a breakout campaign after being given a new lease on life in the wake of Geno Smith’s injury. He’s eager to prove his detractors wrong and believes the best is yet to come, even now on the cusp of turning 33 years old.
When asked if it is possible for an aging quarterback to break out, Fitzpatrick responded:
“Yeah, I don’t think there’s any doubt about that,” Fitzpatrick told the New York Daily News. “So much of the game for the quarterback is the mental side of it. Everybody always talks about my arm and how horrible it is. I promise . . . you can put on some tape (and see) that I can make all the throws that you want me to make or that I need to make. . . . I see myself continuing to get better rather than declining.”
There is no doubt that quarterbacks continue to get better mentally the longer they are in the league working at their craft. However, his statement about arm strength is debatable. Fitzpatrick is more in the Alex Smith range of the arm-strength scale and has never been known as a gun-slinger.
However, this doesn’t preclude the veteran from emerging with a strong year in 2015. The Jets do feature an outstanding receiving corps, led by Eric Decker, Brandon Marshall, Jeremy Kerley and rookie Devin Smith. If offensive coordinator Chan Gailey can figure out a way to get all these receivers integrated into the game plan and establishes a strong running game, then Fitzpatrick does have a chance to lead a competent offensive attack.
The odds are against the bearded one to succeed, however. As Mehta points out in his column, Pro Football Focus has dubbed 32 as the age of decline for most quarterbacks not named Brett Favre, Peyton Manning or Tom Brady. That said, Rich Gannon did break the trend when he emerged from mediocrity to become a league star for a few years with the Oakland Raiders in the early 2000s.
Mediocre is exactly the right way to describe Fitzpatrick’s career to this point. In 11 seasons, he has compiled a record of 33-55-1, completing 60.2 percent of his passes with 123 touchdowns and 101 interceptions, earning a passer rating of 79.5.
Fitzpatrick knows the perception about his game isn’t positive, but he refuses to listen to his critics.
“Somehow I keep sticking around and finding new jobs. So I don’t really listen to the perception. I hear it, for sure. I just kind of shrug my shoulders and make sure that I focus on what I can control and focus on getting myself better.”
If he does have a breakout campaign, as he’s predicting, then the Jets have a good chance of making a playoff push. New York’s defense hasn’t looked good this preseason but should be one of the more dominant units in the NFL under new head coach Todd Bowles. Combined with a strong rushing attack and improved play from Fitzpatrick, this team would be formidable from week to week.
Contrarily, if Fitzpatrick muddles around in mediocrity, then Geno Smith will likely return to start for the Jets when he is healthy and the season will likely become a lost cause.