You can snicker at Ryan Fitzpatrick all you want, but the kid from Harvard is no joke as an NFL quarterback. I don’t think the Bills need to search out their quarterback of the future. For now, they’ve found their answer in Fitzpatrick.
Bills owner Ralph Wilson came out as recently as a couple of weeks ago and said the organization needs to go out and find its future quarterback. Well, since then, Fitzpatrick has been lighting it up.
I had the chance to sit down with Fitzpatrick and Bills coach Chan Gailey prior to Sunday’s overtime loss to the Steelers. When I asked Gailey who Fitzpatrick reminded him of, what he said was interesting. He said Fitzpatrick reminded him of former major league pitcher Greg Maddux in his ability to move on immediately following a mistake or bad play.
“He’s a fighter,” Gailey said. “He doesn’t have an ounce of quit in him.”
Fitzpatrick has shown us exactly what Gailey was talking about. He threw two interceptions in the first half against the Bengals two weeks ago, and had four touchdowns in the second half. He couldn’t get the offense going early against the Steelers, but came out scrapping in the second half. He’s also carved up good defenses in both the Steelers and the Ravens.
It really takes coaches time to know their talent. Once the Bills figured out what they had in Fitzpatrick, they’ve been balling. For an organization that constantly changes coaches and quarterbacks, they might want to settle on the guy who can dial-up plays and appears to be gritty and tough enough for the fans in western New York. He seems to fit well.
Fitzpatrick is good enough — and Gailey believes that he’s good enough — for the Bills to win.
The Bills have lost nine games, and eight of those losses have come against teams tied or in first place in their divisions. Three of their losses have been in overtime. The Bills aren’t world beaters, but they fight and during the second half of the season they’ve shown they can beat anyone.
Fitzpatrick told me that Gailey instills confidence in his players. He knows their talent, and designs game plans around their strengths. Fitzpatrick said players like himself, Stevie Johnson and Fred Jackson know what it’s like to not be wanted or not to be given an opportunity. But Gailey wanted them and has given them that opportunity.
It’s a strong statement and offers some insight into the relationship between coach and quarterback.
Fitzpatrick is a person of great intelligence. To the point, he’s similar to Peyton Manning on the field. He can dissect a complex defense and their adjustments quickly. Once he’s seen things a couple of times, you’re in trouble. That’s what happened to the Bengals. The NFL is about fooling quarterbacks, and if you line up and just run a defense against him, that won’t be the case. I would wager Fitzpatrick is one of the smartest players to ever play in this league.
The Bills have so many areas they need to improve on this offseason. Unless there’s a quarterback available who is too good to pass up, I wouldn’t go looking given the way Fitzpatrick has played.
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