Why the Bills Must Cut Ties with Ryan Fitzpatrick, Look Forward at QB Position
Now, before you jump all over me for the title of the article, take a moment out of your day to hear me out.
In early 2011, Ryan Fitzpatrick started as one of the hottest quarterbacks in the NFL. In fact, through the first four weeks, the only QB with a higher Total QB rating, ESPN's new grading system, was Green Bay Packers signal-caller Aaron Rodgers.
With a losing streak breaking win over the Patriots and a comeback victory over the Raiders, the front office decided to shell out $59 million to the wildly inconsistent quarterback as a reward for his efforts. The franchise placed the confidence in him to be "the guy" in the locker room and on the field for an insane six-year contract extension.
Fitzpatrick has underwhelmed and floundered in expectations since he was given the contract. I referenced a tweet from Bob Glauber of Newsday in my postgame grades last night, but just in cased you missed it.
In case your blood wasn't boiling before getting that information, it certainly has to be now if you are a follower of the team. Mix that in with a 3-10 record since receiving the extension, and you have a giant mess at the quarterback position for the Bills.
There is no denying that Fitzpatrick has enough talent to win at the NFL level. He's intelligent enough to run an above-average no-huddle offense that keeps defenses on the field and off guard at all times. He also knows when to use his audibles to create mismatches at the line of scrimmage.
His arm is a bit limited for explosive plays down field, but he doesn't have the weakest arm in the NFL. He also has solid accuracy on short, quick routes over the middle, which is a huge part of Chan Gailey's offense in Buffalo.
The problem with the Harvard grad is that he has a "Farve-ian" approach to the game without the ability to carry his team to victory on his arm alone.
Brett Favre, love him or hate him, was the ultimate definition of a gunslinger. He lived and died by his arm. The thing about Favre is that for all his bad passing decisions, he would have those few moments throughout the game that would wow an audience. He could make up for throwing two bad interceptions by throwing four awe-inspiring touchdowns.
The guy just knew how to get the job down and win the game.
Fitzpatrick plays the game in a similar fashion, hoping that his big plays outweigh the guaranteed one or two bad mistakes he'll make a game. Unfortunately for him and the team, recently, they haven't.
Buffalo's struggles as a team aside, Fitzpatrick isn't a quarterback that has figured out how to lead a team to victory at all costs. While I'm not foolish enough to believe that he thinks his stats are above the team, he is too careless with the ball when trying to make the tough play.
For example, in yesterday's debacle, Fitzpatrick was trying to take advantage of Darrelle Revis forcing Stevie Johnson inside, with LaRon Landry patrolling the middle of the field. Fitzpatrick hit Johnson on a few quick slants, but Revis eventually caught on to scheme, as he so often does.
Eventually, Fitzpatrick threw a ball behind Johnson, and Revis was able to wrangle the ball away for the first interception of the day.
The problem that ensued after is that Fitzpatrick stubbornly kept trying to force the ball to Johnson instead of working his progressions. The foolishness of staring down both Johnson and Donald Jones led to three bad interceptions, including an inexcusable throw to Antonio Cromartie for a pick-six.
These are issues that were supposed to be resolved by bringing in QB guru David Lee in the offseason to fix Fitzpatrick's delivery. They were issues that the coaching staff and Fitzpatrick claimed would be taken care of by the season opener. They are issues that, if left unattended for too much longer, will have an NFL quarterback and his coach standing with their bags packed in the Ralph Wilson Stadium parking lot.
Where to Go Next
Buffalo won't rush into a decision on their future quarterback situation again after making the emotional decision to give Fitzpatrick his hefty raise. The reason for that may be two-fold. They don't want to admit their mistake only 11 months removed from the extension, and they don't necessarily want to put more big money into another quarterback with so much uncertainty surrounding the team with the health of Ralph Wilson, Jr.
Fitzpatrick will be the quarterback for the remainder of the season unless he gets hurt or historically bad to the point where they need to use Tyler Thigpen and Tarvaris Jackson. The Bills schedule is one of the easiest in the league for once, so if they struggle, it will say quite a bit about Fitzpatrick's abilities and future with the team.
If they struggle with consistency, they could be staring another top-12 pick in the face for the 2013 draft. The only problem with this is that the team has enough talent, if healthy, to hover around .500 this season.
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The top two quarterbacks heading into next April are Logan Thomas and Matt Barkley. The odds of either of them being around by the time the Bills pick are somewhere between slim and none.
Landry Jones and Tyler Wilson could be possibilities in the first round next year, as both have seen their stock dip a tiny bit since the start of the college football season two weekends ago. I'm not sure either is the answer, but I'd understand the consideration of them.
Chan Gailey should have drafted a quarterback when he came to the team three years ago; instead, he elected to go with the in house options.
The Bills haven't drafted well at the spot since the great Jim Kelly, so I understand a little bit of the unwillingness to take a gamble on the position high. But the Bills brass is doing themselves and their fans a disservice by putting a figurative band-aid at quarterback every two seasons.
This season is a pivotal one for both quarterback and head coach in Buffalo. They both need to win to realistically save their jobs. I'm not sure if playoffs are part of that equation, but they should be considering the offseason signings and the rest of the talent on the roster.
Regardless of how Fitzpatrick plays, I don't believe that Buffalo can promise him that they won't draft a quarterback high for the third straight season.
It is only one week and there is time for Fitzpatrick to turn the ship around; there is no denying that. If he plays with positive consistency from a week-to-week basis, then the Bills will have a shot at a Wild Card spot this season. If not, the Bills will quickly sink back to the bottom of the AFC and the finger pointing will begin.
The Buffalo Bills' 2012 season rides on the back of their beleaguered quarterback. It's time for him to decide if he wants to play with the big boys or ride off into the Buffalo sunset.
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