FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – In NFL circles, beards are not terribly uncommon and even the grizzly, mountain-man type of beard is somewhat regular. But the type of chin curtain that can make you an in-law on 'Duck Dynasty' is very rare outside of linemen, who seem to gravitate towards that particular type of thick and bushy chin curtain.
There is Brett Keisel of the Pittsburgh Steelers, who has a legendary beard as well as the New York Jets Nick Mangold, whose motto might as well be “Every month is no shave November.” But to see a quarterback with that type of rug is scarce and frankly has never been seen before. That is, except for Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.
It is 'Fitzy' who may have the best beard on the Jets, combining sheer volume with style and a clear acumen. While Mangold has the long, unkempt thing going and working well, Fitzpatrick clearly maintains his facial locks a bit more. There's a sense of direction and purpose with each lock. It is like a maze of wheat, blowing on the Midwestern plans.
Ahem. Sorry about that.
That his beard is beginning to teeter on having its own zip code is shocking to see for a quarterback. After all, the position is usually for the pretty-boy type and not a lumberjack. And that Fitzpatrick is a Harvard man and not from some hillbilly college makes his dumbcruster even more unique.
“There's not a whole lot that went into it, literally. I think it started some years ago with some laziness. I realized that it was thick and masculine,” Fitzpatrick told Metro.
“So I decided that was the look I was going to go with. I decided to keep it. Because it is thick. And masculine.”
He is of course, more than a beard. He might well be the Jets starting quarterback in a few weeks time, even though incumbent starter Geno Smith has done nothing to lose the job to this point. Depending on how preseason rolls along, Fitzpatrick could be the starter come Week 1. He's played in this offense before and for this offensive coordinator Chan Gailey, who was his head coach with the Buffalo Bills for a spell.
The bearded one is also an established NFL quarterback, one whose completion percentage has improved over the past three years.
Through the first handful of days of training camp, Fitzpatrick has shown that he can compete for the starting job, even as Smith continues to shine in shorts. Fitzpatirck has been working primarily with the second and third string offense.
It remains to be seen how this thing plays out between Smith and Fitzpatrick once preseason starts.
“I think we've made a good jump from offseason, OTAs, minicamp to training camp. Nice to see a lot of the things learned carry over, so we're not starting from square one. But there's still a lot of work ahead of us, that's what training camp and preseason is for. But it's good so far,” Fitzpatrick said.
“There's a lot of talent out there. I think everybody on the offense understands that, that we have to put the work in. The guys understand that. The talent makes it competitive as well. Everyone is fighting for a spot on this team, a role on this team. The overall talent level pushes up some really good competitiveness in practice.
“I think we have enough talent to make a headache for Chan. How is he going to get the ball around?”
He doesn't talk about the quarterback competition in terms of starter and backup roles or trying to win a job. His job as he defines it is to be ready so that if and when he should play, he can do so without skipping a beat. That is his goal and he is willing to let everything else fall where it may.
That he doesn't want to talk much about quarterback competitions is fine of course. There is, afte rall, his beard with which to fill-up some time during this interview.
“At three days, it is a little bit pokey for the wife. Once it gets longer it gets a little bit softer. Once she starts chewing the mustache hair, she's on board with it,” Fitzpatrick said.