(Neil Miller / Sportsday Wire)
Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick had an amazing season in his first year in New York, leading the Jets to 10 victories and nearly getting them into the playoffs.
Fitzpatrick was brought in this past offseason to be the backup to Geno Smith, and wound up as the starter in training camp when Smith had his jaw broken in a fight.
Fitzpatrick provided the Jets with the stability they needed, as he played well and managed games to lead them to a 4-1 record to open the season.
They then hit a rough patch in the middle of the season, as they lost four of five to drop to 5-5. In the middle of it, Fitzpatrick suffered damage to ligaments in his thumb in a game in Oakland on November 1, and had to have surgery. He did not miss a single game the rest of the way.
Starting with a four-touchdown performance on November 29 against Miami, Fitzpatrick led them on an amazing run of five straight victories, which included late comebacks against the Giants and Patriots.
This brought the Jets’ record to 10-5 and a win-and-in scenario in Buffalo against the Bills on Sunday.
Fitzpatrick had a tough afternoon in the 22-17 Jets’ loss, as he got intercepted three times in the fourth quarter, including on the last pass he threw in the final minute. He finished with 181 yards passing, 16-37 passing, and two touchdowns in addition to the three interceptions.
Even though the season ended on a sour note for Fitzpatrick, he deserves to be the starter heading into next season. Head Coach Todd Bowles has already indicated he wants Fitzpatrick back next season.
Fitzpatrick had one of the best seasons ever by a Jets quarterback, as he threw for 31 touchdowns and 3,905 yards.
For a first-year head coach, Bowles, and a quarterback in his first year with an organization, Fitzpatrick, to win 10 games in their first season together is an amazing achievement.
This season was reminiscent of 1998, when veteran Vinny Testaverde stepped in for Glenn Foley early on and led them to 12 wins, an Eastern Division title, and a trip to the AFC title game.
The Jets clinched the division in Buffalo that year, on a Saturday in late December. If the Jets could have pulled this one out on Sunday, the parallels to 1998 would have definitely come full circle.
Bowles said of how disappointing this loss was, “I’m disappointed to lose the game. All we ask for is opportunity and we didn’t take advantage of it. We lost the ball game. We fought hard. We win as a team and we lose as a team.”
Bowles said of how surprised he was for Fitzpatrick to have a performance like this in Buffalo, “It was tough. They have a tough defense. We knew they were tough the first time we played. We knew it was going to be one of these type of ball games. It wasn’t [Ryan] Fitzpatrick; we didn’t make enough plays on the other side of the ball.”
Fitzpatrick said of what he will take out of this year that you never would have expected and that will serve you well moving forward, “I mean it’s hard to even think about right now. Like I said, I am proud of everyone in that locker room right now but it hurts, it hurts me a lot. After this interview I have to walk back in there and just the feeling of not playing your best and not making the plays we needed to make to win. It’s part of the game I love too, the adversity and being able to walk back in there and look everybody in the eye and give them a hug and shake hands. That’s part of being part of a team and so it’s tough and it hurts, but there is a lot of love in that locker room with the guys.”
Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall said of what he thinks of Fitzpatrick as a teammate, “If it wasn’t for Ryan Fitzpatrick we wouldn’t be in this position. Ryan needs to stop that and needs to keep his head up. He played and awesome game and not only that, he led us all season. He was the guy when we were on that decline a little bit mid-season that spoke up and brought the team together. There were other vets, but he led the way and I thought he played great. I thought we played slow in the first quarter but other than that he’s played well. You’ve got to give them credit, they have great players and they get paid too.”
Fitzpatrick said of what he told his teammates after the game, “There’s not a whole lot of talking in there right now, but it’s hard to come up with words just because we really came together as a team this year and I feel like we fought through a lot of adversity. We were on a nice little run there and we just couldn’t finish it off. I stand in front of them and I’m proud to be their teammate, I’m proud to be in that locker room, but also just feel bad for not being able to pull it out.”
On possibly the best season in his career ending in disappointing fashion, Fitzpatrick said, “I mean it’s the hardest and most difficult end to a season I’ve ever had in terms of how I feel right now and how painful of a loss that was. At this point it doesn’t feel like a very great season.”
Jets wide receiver Eric Decker said of there being a feeling they would be able to pull this one out after the comeback wins against the Giants, Cowboys, and Patriots in December, “Yeah, of course. I mean that’s why we play 60 minutes. Whether you start fast or start slow, you got to play to the end and whether we won games toward the end or haven’t, we know that the opportunity is there and we got down to the red-zone and obviously would love to have that one back, but I have all the confidence in this team that we would rally back.”
Decker said of how he felt after catching the touchdown that cut Buffalo’s lead to 19-17, “There was a lot of time left. There was, I think, 10-plus minutes left in the fourth quarter. We knew the defense was playing well, we were going to get the ball back, we were going to have a chance, we had a couple chances, and we found a momentum. We stopped getting penalties, we stopped getting behind the chains and like I said, just kind of found a rhythm.”
Fitzpatrick said of what he was envisioning before the game, “Yeah, it’s an NFL football game. We knew we were going to have to come in and earn it and we knew this was going to be a fight and they were going to give us their best. We weren’t going to be able to just walk on the field and they weren’t going to bow down to us. It was going to be a fight and they played well today. They played tough and made more plays than we did.”
On the Jets’ frustration level after this one, Fitzpatrick said, “Yeah, it was tough. All you can ask for in this game is just an opportunity and as poorly as we played in the first quarter and as slow as we were going there, we picked it up and had an opportunity at the end to win the game. We weren’t able to pull it off and my heart hurts so bad right now for all those guys in the locker room. It was a tough one.”
Marshall said of the season, going 10-6, but missing the playoffs, “We did some good things and we did some bad things. It sucks for the obvious reasons, it’s tough. It’s just like life; you just have to continue to pick yourself up. These are the moments that make you tough, these are the moments that build great character and championship teams and so we will see how our offseason goes and see how the future looks.”
Marshall said of this loss staying with him for a while, “We put a lot in to it so each guy is different. Some guys will be over it by the end of the night, some guys will be over it in a day, some guys will be over it in a week but I feel like you have to get over it. I always talk about life and sport and how they coincide and you have to be tough. If you make a bad play, you have to get over it because it is going to affect the next play. These guys have to get over it because they’re still husbands, they’re still fathers. There is more to these guys than being football players, so, you have to take it, you have to give them credit and you have to move forward as quickly as possible and in no time we’ll be back at it again.”