Jets fans like to compare watching Geno Smith to being on a roller coaster. But after these past two games, watching Ryan Fitzpatrick is akin to being on a free-fall ride.
Following Sunday’s 27-17 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, the Jets (1-3) find themselves in a really tight spot. Although the Seahawks (3-1) are a league power, it was a winnable game for Gang Green. But they watched as the game got away from them in the latter stages for the second consecutive week.
The prior week, Fitzpatrick gave away the game in Kansas City, which was still a ball game with the Jets only trailing 17-3 to start the fourth quarter. The veteran quarterback looked like a neophyte in air-mailing several balls and trying to squeeze the football in tight spaces that not even the game’s elite would’ve tried. The erratic gun-slinging nature had a predictable ending with Fitzpatrick serving up a career-high six interceptions.
Fitzpatrick has now thrown nine interceptions in the last two games, and 10 for the season. Eight of his 10 picks have occurred in the fourth quarter, with nary a touchdown pass. And dating back to last season’s playoff-eliminating season finale loss in Buffalo, he’s tossed a staggering 11 fourth-quarter interceptions in the past five games. Fitzpatrick threw 15 interceptions all of last season, but that came with a career-high 31 touchdowns to offset the picks.
This season’s tallies are usually a death knell for any starting quarterback, especially for a career journeyman. But Fitzpatrick still appears to have the favor of the locker room and coaching staff. Fitzpatrick’s favorite target, wideout Brandon Marshall, spent the entire offseason clamoring for the Jets to re-sign his quarterback – Smith’s feelings and ego be damned. So, with the amount of campaigning for the bearded one, Marshall isn’t ready to abandon ship, noting that he’s prepared to “go down with the ship with Ryan Fitzpatrick” – that is if head coach Todd Bowles sticks with the guy who’s reverted back to his turnover-prone days.
“He knows he can't have turnovers. Some of them are unfortunate and not the quarterback’s fault,” said Bowles, adding regardless of fault, the team can’t survive brutal turnovers. “He can’t turn the ball over. We have to get better there.”
The Jets are still in the midst of a brutal opening six-game stretch in the schedule, which means these next couple of weeks, starting with a trip to Pittsburgh, will be telling. Just how deep into the season Bowles is willing to ride Fitzpatrick if the picks continue will be the main storyline on offense – and a testament to just how little the coaching staff trusts Smith.
Naturally, not all of the Jets’ ills can be attributed to Fitzpatrick. But when you’re the starting quarterback of a team in New York, and the guy everyone not named Geno was clamoring for to return, any blame for a slow start will land at your feet.
Fitzpatrick’s critics will gloss over the fact that the Jets defense has given up seven passes of 40 yards or more, despite only yielding 11 of those types of passing all of last year.
They’ll also skirt around the issue that the offensive line is faltering. During the first three games, the offensive line held its own against three quality defenses in Cincinnati, Buffalo, and Kansas City. But against Seattle, the wheels came off. There were too many penalties, a season-high in sacks allowed (four), paltry run blocking (2.9 yards per carry), and even an inexplicable – and totally avoidable -- injury on the offensive line. Starting guard Brian Winters suffered a concussion in the second quarter when he head-butted defensive end, and professional agitator, Michael Bennett. Winters was also flagged for a 15-yard personal foul penalty before being taken to the locker room for good – thus jeopardizing his availability for the Steelers game on Sunday.
Winters’s injury was a microcosm of the afternoon. And the Jets faithful can only hope it wasn’t a sign of further avoidable miscues to come.
Gang Green notes:
- According to Elias, Fitzpatrick is the first quarterback since Steve DeBerg in 1986 to have nine interceptions in a two-game span. He’s the first Jets’ quarterback since Frank Reich in 1996 to have back-to-back games with at least three interceptions. And he’s just the fifth player in the last 10 seasons to throw at least 10 interceptions in the first four games of a campaign.