WITH a new NFL season comes a new crazy batch of trending stories. Through the first two weeks of football, easily the biggest talking point so far is the form of Ryan Fitzpatrick. The Bucs backup quarterback has been lights out to start the season, leading Tampa Bay to an improbable 2-0 record against two respectable opponents. However, Fitz’s dominance might be causing more headaches than he’s curing.
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IN case this comes as news to you, Ryan Fitzpatrick isn’t a household NFL name. Boasting a career record of 50-70-1, Fitz has bounced around the league since being drafted in 2005, with the Bucs his 7th professional team. Fitzpatrick has shown enough to warrant a permanent spot on an NFL roster, but his time under center has largely been split between starter and benchwarmer.
REGARDLESS of where you think Fitz falls in the NFL QB pecking order, he is well and truly playing like a star at the moment. Through Tampa Bay’s first two games Fitzpatrick has set multiple Buccaneer and NFL records, throwing for over 400 yards and four scores in BOTH of his first two starts. Dating back to 1950, the ‘400 & 4’ stat line has been achieved by 16 quarterback’s through a team’s first two games of the season. Anyone want to guess how many players in NFL history have managed to start the season with consecutive 400 & 4 stat lines? One.
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Fitzpatrick’s season stats of 819 passing yards with eight touchdowns (and just one INT) are almost hard to believe, especially when you look at the strength of his opponents in the first two games. In Week 1 he dropped 48 points on a Saints defense that fueled a playoff run in 2017 and last week he defeated the reigning Super Bowl champion Philadephia Eagles. Say what you will about the ‘pass-happy’ orientation of today’s league, but those two foes shouldn’t be conceding 400 and 4 to the likes of Ryan Fitzpatrick. And yet…
WHILE it’s all well and good to get around the early success story of the league, Fitzpatrick’s dominant play leaves the franchise in an odd spot. After this weekend, Jaemis Winston will have served his three-game ban for violating the league’s personal conduct policy. Many expected the former Heisman winner to regain his spot atop the depth chart right away, however, Fitzpatrick won’t give up his spot without a fight. This impressive start and Winston’s off-field discretions/indifferent future might see him take a seat even once he is cleared to play.
AT the age of 24 there’s no denying that Winston is the future for the franchise at quarterback, with their current 35-year old starter and his lofty passing numbers due for an inevitable decline any week now. Until that time though, the Bucs CAN’T bench Fitzpatrick. If he comes out and lights the Steelers up on Monday Night Football, then there is absolutely no reason why he shouldn’t back it up in Week 4 against the Bears. If he stinks it up then one can argue that he still deserves to start that game against Chicago after jumpstarting this stale offense.
YES, Winston might be the long-term solution and I’m not quite ready to throw him under the bus like some others. He will be forced to take up a seat on the bench until Fitzmagic’s reign concludes. It’s been a pleasure to watch Fitzpatrick ball out over eight quarters to start the season, but there is still 87.5% of the season remaining and Winston will (should?) regain the starting gig before the year is out.
Image from bucsnation.com
THERE are some hidden truths to Fitz’s grand box scores over the first fortnight of season 2018. While he has recorded a ton of yards early on it’s worth noting that his passing numbers have been boosted by his receivers’ heroics once the ball is in their hands. 258 of Fitzpatrick’s 819 passing yards have come on just four passes with O.J. Howard, DeSean Jackson and Mike Evans recording four 50+ yard touchdowns on those plays. The large majority of those passing yards in question were recorded after the catch, once again spelling the truth behind Fitz’s stat line.
I can’t see these tantalizing numbers being maintained for much longer, even though there’s a scenario where Fitzpatrick proves me wrong and continues to captivate NFL fans with antics on and off the field. The league is just a better place when there’s a little Fitzmagic in the air.
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