By MICHAEL FAIRLIE //
As the minutes count down towards the start of the 2016 New York Jets season against the Cincinnati Bengals at Jet Life Stadium, the anticipation continues to grow until it reaches a fever pitch around 1pm today.
The adrenaline levels of Jets Nation will reach astronomical levels in the Meadowlands as well as in living rooms, dens, man caves and bars throughout New York and New Jersey. It’s time for shit to get real as they say, and I am certainly hopeful that our green and white gang is ready to unleash the force to be reckoned with that I anticipate them being this year.
I have to admit that my optimism for the coming season had wavered at times during the long offseason, prior to the start of training camp, especially given the prospect of the inconsistent Geno Smith leading the way. That all changed when the team finalized a deal to bring back the FitzMagic back for another year.
The impact of the return of Ryan Fitzpatrick to the fold in late July may have been met with much skepticism, but if you think that there was a better option that is currently on this roster, I think you are sorely mistaken. Whether you agree or disagree, he is the leader of this team’s offense, in the locker room, and on the field.
Are there better quarterbacks in the NFL? Absolutely. But there is not a better option, right here and right now, to lead the Jets into battle. The guy who set the single-season franchise record for TD passes and finished second in completions and passing yards has been talked about by media and fans alike as if he is some scrub that they signed out of the Arena League 2, who was cleaning toilets when he got the call.
More important than the impressive numbers Fitzpatrick put up during the 2015 season is the chemistry he has built with Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker and even the incredibly underestimated third receiver, Quincy Enunwa. That is not to mention the strong bond he has formed with his partner-in-crime, Nick Mangold.
A good deal of the apprehension by fans to put their faith into FitzMagic, and justifiably so, is the disappointing performance he put forth during the season-ending debacle against Buffalo.
It is certainly true that Fitzpatrick put forth a less-than-stellar effort in that game, but it is irresponsible to ignore the fact that the defense could not seem to stop the Bills subpar offense on several key third downs. Among their big defensive follies that day was when they inexplicably let Tyrod Taylor beat them to the outside on an 18-yard touchdown run.
The year-long incompetence of the special teams unit, and the absence of Bilal Powell teamed with Stevan Ridley getting the bulk of the carries, as well as the overall lack of energy shown by the team as a whole, conspired to further stack the cards against Fitz, who was forced to take some chances that unfortunately went the wrong way.
A lot of people forget that, with 1:57 left in that game, he placed a ball almost perfectly to Kenbrell Thompkins that Mario Butler broke up just in time to avoid a sure touchdown.
With all said and done, Fitzpatrick could have done a better job, but it was not all on him. I was definitely disappointed, but when I put things in perspective and looked at it as a whole, the good outweighed the bad when it comes to #14 in 2015.
In the five games leading up to week 17, when the Jets’ season seemed all but lost, he completed 64.5% of his passes for 1,525 yards with 12 TD’s and 1 INT. But that is easy to forget when the season ends the way it did.
Now that we are entering a new season, with a clean slate, and Fitzpatrick enters year 2 at the helm with Marshall, Decker and Enunwa to throw to, along with the potent combination of Forte and Powell in the backfield, and a seemingly faster and much improved combination of special teams and defense, there is certainly cause for optimism.
Coming off of the best two seasons of his career, Ryan Fitzpatrick has clearly grown as a quarterback, and is poised to prove the doubters wrong and lead this team as far as they can go, collectively, as a unit. He is not the savior, riding into town on a white horse, but with the help of his team working together, FitzMagic can get the job done and I am hopeful that he will, and they will.
Here is an article I wrote back in January about bringing back Fitzpatrick: