When Ryan Fitzpatrick walked into Todd Bowles’s office on Tuesday, the 33-year-old quarterback prepared for bad news. He did not necessarily expect to be benched for Geno Smith, especially after Bowles said Monday, “Fitz will be back next week,” but he was not shocked by the decision, either. “We’re 1–5, so something has got to change,” Fitzpatrick said from his locker Wednesday. “I guess I was the change.” He left the meeting disappointed, but unable to object. Fitzpatrick has thrown 11 interceptions to five touchdowns so far this year while leading the league’s lowest-scoring offense.
This is not how his run as Jets signal-caller was supposed to end. Not after a record-breaking season last year in New York and not after he re-upped with the team for $12 million following protracted off-season negotiations. But this is Ryan Fitzpatrick we are talking about, for whom almost nothing has gone as planned. Smith now joins a list of less-than-illustrious quarterbacks who have replaced Fitzpatrick: Trent Edwards took his job in Buffalo, Charlie Whitehurst his roster spot in Tennessee. Ryan Mallett briefly leapt over him in Houston before the Texans sent Fitzpatrick to New York for a late-round conditional pick. And each time, the Amish Rifle got his revenge. But has he now taken his final shot? Fitzpatrick wrestled with that possibility Wednesday.
“That’s a tough—I mean, that’s a tough question,” he said. This is something I still love doing…. I’d love a chance to go out there and do it. I thought when I was cut in Buffalo back in the day that I’d never have another chance, so who knows.”
As it stands today, it’s unlikely that the opportunity will come in hunter green. After Fitzpatrick struggled against top teams like Seattle and Pittsburgh, not to mention a six-pick performance against Kansas City, Smith now gets to come in and face what appears to be an easier stretch, highlighted by games against Cleveland and Miami in the next three weeks. And even if he doesn’t take advantage, Todd Bowles very well may look to the future, namely second-year QB Bryce Petty and rookie Christian Hackenberg. Bowles said “it’s possible” they’d see a start this year, though “we still got some stages to go before we get to that point.”
“I mean, looking at the situation realistically,” Fizpatrick said, “I don’t know if I have a real chance.” Which leaves the question: Is there really another team in the league that will be willing to hitch its wagon to a 34-year-old who is last in QB rating among those who have thrown 150 balls—by over five points? Fitzpatrick sounded like a guy hoping the answer will be yes.
“The competitor in me really wants to be out there,” he said. “The guy that was the leader of this team last year and the beginning of this year wants to be out there.”
In the meantime though, he will be an advisor (and an expert in second chances) for Smith, while also being the subject of pity from teammates like Brandon Marshall.
Marshall lobbied for his team to re-sign Fitzpatrick this offseason and said earlier this year that he’d “go down in the boat” with the guy. Well, the receiver started Wednesday’s chat by hollering “Boat down!” Then he got serious.
“It’s tough, man. It’s tough,” Marshall said. “All we can do is stick together and keep pushing. It’s rough being a part of a teammate being benched.”
But at that point, he pivoted to the future. “We need to keep our heads up and rally around Geno,” he said. “I think he will give us the spark we need. I’m excited for him. I’m excited for our team.”
As for Fitzpatrick? By then, he was long gone from his locker.