When Ryan Fitzpatrick inked his deal to join the Washington Football Team, two things ran through most people's mind.
First, Fitzpatrick solves the most important position need after the team finished 7-9 in the NFC East.
Second, Washington targeting a quarterback in the 2021 NFL Draft is a possibility.
One question was answered Thursday when Ron Rivera spoke to the media. Fitzpatrick will be the starter when camp begins later this season.
But we'll argue this: That doesn't make him the starter Week 1 of the 2021 campaign.
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"There will be a competition," Rivera said on the move. "We want to play the best football player, obviously, that gives us the best opportunity to win."
That does leave the door ajar a bit, right?
Fitzpatrick, 38, signed a one-year deal worth $10.5 million after going 4-3 as the Miami Dolphins starter in 2020. His role was simple: teach rookie Tua Tagovailoa the ropes and then be ready when his named was called upon.
Twice, Tua, the former Alabama product was benched in the fourth quarter in favor of the journeyman. One ended with a win against Las Vegas. The other culminated in a close loss against Denver.
Rivera in Washington? His word is golden, meaning everything runs through his mind. And sure, 17 years of experience plus the fan love of "FitzMagic" will be in Fitzpatrick's favor when entering camp.
Ultimately, we bet, once workouts start, that won't matter to Rivera. Fitzpatrick must win over Rivera's trust to win the starting job.
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"I think for the most part, competition does create the opportunity to have guys out there and really try to put it all out on the line," Rivera said. "As I said last year, one of the mistakes I made, obviously, was I didn't have the true competition."
Fitzpatrick's financial deal, among other factors, makes him the favorite to win the job. It doesn't mean Rivera won't at some point lean a second way. Last season, WFT trusted that second-year quarterback Dwayne Haskins would flourish in Scott Turner's system without a preseason.
Six starts and a 1-5 record led the former Buckeye being benched. He'd be cut a week later.
Rivera has two players who have already earned his trust since back in Carolina. Taylor Heinicke was given a contract extension after nearly helping WFT defeat Tampa Bay in the Wild Card Round. Kyle Allen, who started four games in 2020, was given an exclusive tender to remain in D.C.
Does Rivera view one of them as the "next guy" for the franchise? For now, we think no. What about another "next guy''?
Although Rivera downplayed talk of taking a quarterback early in April's Draft, it's not off the table. Fitzpatrick is a break line that holds a problem in place. It doesn't correct it altogether.
"We have targets, we have ideas, we have guys that we like, but that always changes just because of the fact that everybody has a choice," Rivera said. "You just never know what's going to happen at that point."
No, you sure don't. For now, Fitzpatrick is the starting for Washington.
If he can't earn Rivera's trust, he won't be tomorrow.
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