Ryan Fitzpatrick might well be the best quarterback on the New York Jets roster. But Ryan Fitzpatrick deserved to be benched heading into Week 7.
And now he deserves a little reality check because his performances this year is what got him benched last week.
It might well be his performance in Sunday’s win that sees him back as the team’s starter.
Since last training camp I’ve been touting that Fitzpatrick was the better quarterback option for the Jets, this even before Geno Smith was sucker-punched by a teammate last August. He reads defenses better, has a better command of the offense, greater pocket presence and better touch on the placement of his passes (just ask opposing cornerbacks on what a lovely ball he throws….hiyo!). But Fitzpatrick deserved to be benched for a team that was 1-5 in large part – not entirely – but in large part due to his inability to spark the offense.
That was something he did last year in 16 starts for a team that surprised many to go 10-6. But to lash out on Sunday following a Jets win where he came in off the bench for an injured Smith, who was named the starter this week, well that’s just wrong.
“The biggest thing in this game to last is to have belief in yourself. Because when the owner stops believing in you and the GM stops believing in you and the coaches stop believing in you, sometimes all you have is yourself,” Fitzpatrick said after the game, a Jets win. “That’s kind of something I’ve dealt with before and something I’m dealing with now.”
Admittedly, Fitzpatrick helped orchestrate the Jets Week 7 victory over the Baltimore Ravens. He deserves a pat on the back for that. But he deserves equal blame for the Jets five losses in the season’s first six weeks.
Again, not entirely his fault. But some of it sure is.
And with his penchant for throwing interceptions – he did after all have 10 interceptions in his previous four games – it is understandable that he would be benched. It isn’t a general manager not believing in him or a coach that has lost confidence in him. It is performance, plain and simple.
Anyone with eyes could see that he wasn’t holding up his end of the bargain, even as the offensive line struggled to protect him and his wide receivers couldn’t get separation. For the same reason that his fellow quarterback Smith deserved to be benched in 2014, Fitzpatrick needed to hold a clipboard this week.
And a veteran quarterback in his twelfth season in the NFL shouldn’t need a Harvard degree to understand that. Especially since he’s seen more bench time in his career than Judge Judy.
All Fitzpatrick has to do is perform like he did on Sunday where he was solid and managed the game to win back his starting spot. But before that the Jets gave Fitzpatrick chance after chance, even as the losses and interceptions continued to mount, to right his season. Now, it has gotten to the point where anyone but Fitzpatrick was a better option than the Jets veteran.
He stepped up on Sunday after Smith went down with a knee injury and was effective. He threw a touchdown, didn’t have an interception and guided the Jets to a win. It might be enough to see him reclaim the starting spot.
It is the same opportunity that he would have wanted last year or this year if the roles were reversed and Smith was the starter. And it is the same opportunity that he is afforded now after helping orchestrate a much-needed Jets win on Sunday.
But what it is not is an opportunity for Fitzpatrick to whine and grouse, especially since he wasn’t exactly lighting the NFL on fire the weeks before his benching. It is a bad look for a quarterback and a man who after 12 seasons as a professional quarterback should know by now that this league isn’t about management believing in him.
It is about his performance, not belief. And that is why he was benched following Week 6 and why he might start this week.