The Jets’ concern this Sunday is that Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick doesn’t deal them a loss that really “smarts.”
The Harvard-educated Fitzpatrick is shaping up to have a career season, having thrown for over 1,700 yards and 14 touchdowns against just seven interceptions.
But Fitzpatrick, who has been rather plebian in terms of success as a NFL quarterback, is forever known as perhaps being the smartest player to play in the league. His pre-draft score on the Wonderlic test of 48 out of 50 is the highest on record in the NFL. Most NFL players range in the low-to-mid 20’s on the test. This year, Fitzpatrick is doing more than just impressing with his IQ points. He has established himself as one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL.
“I think this guy has got something to him. He’s got that leadership, he’s smart, he delivers the football and he’s a good athlete. I mean, he can run with the ball, as well,” Jets head coach Rex Ryan said. “But he really broke out this year. You look at it statistically and all that, and the most important stat is wins and losses, and right now he’s doing a heck of a job.”
He was always a player that was easy to root for. Transitioning from the Ivy League to the NFL is a compelling story, but few gave Fitzpatrick a chance to stick around. He doesn’t possess prototypical size and while he can scramble, he won’t ever be confused with the likes of Michael Vick. So Fitzpatrick seemed to be a bit of a “tweener” who was projected to be nothing more than a third-string quarterback.
A seventh-round pick in 2005, he bounced around St. Louis and Cincinnati before finding a home in Buffalo. The Bills have never had a winning record since Fitzpatrick took over as quarterback in Oct. 2008, but that is changing. This year, he has taken the Bills to a 5-2 record and there is belief in western New York that this team could be headed for their first playoff appearance since 1999.
Credit Fitzpatrick for making the smart move of using the NFL lockout to his advantage.
“He worked extremely hard in the offseason. He got the guys together and they were throwing, working out and getting on the same page and I think that that has really paid dividends for us early in the season,” Bills head coach Chan Gailey said. “They didn’t just go out and go through the motions. I think they went out and worked. I think that’s the difference.”
But of course, the underlying story with Fitzpatrick is always what’s going on underneath his helmet. As well as he’s throwing the ball this year, extra credit goes to his innate ability to quickly grasp things.
“He has a great grasp of what we are trying to do and he understands the game. There are not a lot of people that really understand the whole game,” Gailey said. “He understands the whole game, not just offense, but defense, coverages, field position, time on the clock, game management.”
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer for breaking news, injury updates and live information from every team practice.