By MICHAEL FAIRLIE //
When it comes to the subject of whether or not the New York Jets should re-sign Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, there has been a great deal of debate between the fans of Gang Green.
The attitude of some fans paints the picture that having the Harvard graduate behind center beyond this past season would be a mistake of catastrophic proportions. Others feel that with the alternative choices currently consisting of the wildly inconsistent Geno Smith and the still rather raw Bryce Petty, that Ryan might just be the best choice for the time being. Bringing him back on a short-term deal or a long-term deal is another debate in itself.
Call me crazy for being in support of bringing him back if you must, but I do believe that Mr. Fitzpatrick just put up one of the greatest statistical seasons of all time by a Jets quarterback. He broke the single-season franchise record with 31 touchdown passes and was second best in completions with 335 (8 less completions than Brett Favre in 2008) and passing yards with 3,905 (only 102 yards less than Namath’s 4,007 yard campaign in 1967).
You add on to that the leadership ability and never-say-die attitude Fitzpatrick has displayed as well as the recognizable support of his teammates and you have to seriously consider keeping him around.
On top of his own individual accomplishments, coming off of a broken leg, in a year on a new team that he was not even expected to start for most of training camp, Ryan has developed an incredible chemistry with Wide Receivers Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker.
Catching passes from Fitzpatrick, Marshall broke the Jets single-season franchise record for receptions with 109 and yards with 1,502. Brandon also tied Don Maynard (1965) and Art Powell (1960) for most receiving touchdowns in a season by a Jet with 14.
Decker added 80 receptions of his own to go along with 1,027 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns, which arguably makes the Marshall-Decker combination the most dynamic duo in a single season in Jets history. This was all done without a viable option at Tight End and a rotating cast of characters in the role of third receiver.
So, if the Jets cannot find a way to keep Fitzpatrick, what exactly are their options going into the 2016 season? Is there someone currently on the team that can do a better job or any attractive options on the free agent market that could come in, learn Chan Gailey’s system, develop chemistry with the offense and truly provide an upgrade at the position?
Already on the roster is former starter and 2013 second-round draft pick, Geno Smith. While I cannot say with absolute certainty that Geno will never be a quality starting quarterback in the NFL, he certainly has not done much to inspire confidence in the coaching staff or the fan base over his two plus years in the league, on the field or in the locker room.
In fairness, he was thrust into the starting role in his rookie season, well before he was ready, with a less-than-stellar receiving corps and an incompetent offensive coordinator. But still, he has been wildly inconsistent, accumulating 27 touchdowns along with 35 interceptions and 7 fumbles in his two years as a starter in the league. He has also shown far too many signs of brain-farting, similar to his predecessor, Mark Sanchez.
Geno possesses the athleticism and ability to play the position, but can he get out of his own way when it comes to the mental side of the game? You know, basically the most important thing about being a signal caller in the NFL.
Although it is possible that they might redshirt Bryce Petty for another year and keep Smith around as a backup with NFL experience, who is also on an affordable last year of his rookie contract, I would not be shocked if Geno is sent packing this offseason.
That brings us to highly touted 2015 fourth-round draft pick, Bryce Petty. Blessed with incredible arm strength, adequate escapability when the pocket breaks down and a solid head on his shoulders, Petty is in position to eventually become a starter in this league, if not at least a reliable backup.
The problem is that coming out of Baylor’s one-read system, it would probably benefit him to sit for another year while he refines his mechanics and learns to read NFL defenses in order to efficiently and accurately get through his progressions. Another year of learning from an incredibly intelligent and crafty veteran with excellent leadership skills like Ryan Fitzpatrick can do wonders for his long-term development.
When you factor in the sensational season Ryan had and the chemistry that has been built within Chan Gailey’s offensive system, it is hard to make an argument that anyone currently available on the free agent market would be a better fit than Fitzpatrick. With Kirk Cousins and Brock Osweiler expected to stay put in Washington and Denver respectively, names such as Drew Stanton, Jimmy Clausen, Matt Schaub and Matt Cassel appear to top the list of possible replacements at quarterback.
If that list causes you to get excited enough to say that the Jets should send Ryan Fitz-packing, I’d like to have some of what you are smoking and/or drinking.
On the surface it appears as if the Jets would like to retain Fitzpatrick as their starting quarterback and that he would like to stay. The hardest part about deciding on what to do with him will most likely be the length and the amount of guaranteed money included in a contract to re-sign him.
Considering the fact that he will turn 34 this November as well as the questions about his arm strength and performance ceiling, it is not likely that he will get more than a 3 or 4-year deal. It is probably more likely that the Jets will try to sell him on something like an incentive-laden, two-year contract. No matter what, they need to make an honest effort to keep Fitzpatrick behind center in 2016.
Even if you are working under the assumption that they will bring Fitzpatrick back, trying to find another quarterback in the draft is something that also needs to be explored by the Jets. He is not getting any younger and there is no guarantee that Bryce Petty will be the guy when Ryan moves on.
Searching for a franchise quarterback is an ongoing process that needs to be addressed each season unless and until you can find a guy like Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning or Tom Brady. And if they do believe Petty might be the eventual answer, they still need to bring in competition for Bryce as the future of the franchise.
You can read my article from 2/10/16 about the about the Jets QB options in 2016 by clicking the following link: