We are not talking about the charity Fitzpatrick shows to his fellow man, but his tendency to relinquish the ball to opponents. Since getting his first starting job with the Cincinnati Bengals in 2008, the starting quarterback of the Texans has thrown 85 interceptions and surrendered 46 fumbles.
These ghastly figures must have contributed to the New York Post naming him the “winner of the NFL’s worst QB competition.” In reality, neither total tops the NFL over the last six seasons. Eli Manning leads the pack with 107 interceptions while Joe Flacco has the worst fumble mark with 56 over that period.
On a per-game basis, Fitzpatrick is admittedly dreadful. While Manning and Flacco spread their miscues out over 96 games, it took 79 games for Fitzpatrick to record his 1.7 average.
Brad Riter of the Trending Buffalo website broke down every interception thrown by Fitzpatrick in 2012, the season he led the league in that category. Riter concluded, “Of the 23 picks, we’re going to pin 11 directly on Ryan Fitzpatrick. 6 fall on the receiver and 6 more get chalked up to circumstance (situation and/or opponent).”
How this compares with every other NFL quarterback cannot be determined without a more comprehensive analysis. But making the quarterback responsible for about half of them could be in the ballpark of the league-wide average.
The fantasy rankings for quarterbacks compiled by Christopher Harris of ESPN places Fitzpatrick at No. 26, and Fantasy Pros has him near the bottom at No. 31. Both sites put Jay Cutler of the Chicago Bears in the top half, No. 14 for ESPN and No. 13 for Fantasy Pros.
Cutler may be a better player than Fitzpatrick, but the gap between them is not as wide as the rankings would suggest. When it comes to turnovers, they have the same per-game average.
Both have had to contend with mediocre offensive coordinators. Fitzpatrick was stuck with Curtis Modkins for three years in Buffalo. Modkins was so accomplished in that role he is now the running backs coach of the Detroit Lions.
Cutler is on his fourth coordinator in five years. But his head coach, Marc Trestman, is considered an offensive mastermind and one of the league's most innovative coaches in the opinion of Alessandro Miglio of Bleacher Report.
NFL Media columnist Adam Schein published an offseason article titled “Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears primed to realize full potential in 2014.” The prospects of Cutler are bolstered by the league’s most impressive wide receiver tandem, Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery.
As a duo, Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins are not in their class, but neither are they chopped liver. And Fitzpatrick cannot help but benefit from the offensive acumen of a coordinator who worked with Tom Brady for four seasons: head coach Bill O’Brien.
In turn, O’Brien should benefit from the intelligence of a field general who is a Harvard grad. Brett Kollmann of the Battle Red Blog quoted O’Brien speaking at the Nike Coach of the Year Clinic in 2013.
He has to have a great football IQ. And if he doesn’t, if he can’t learn it, then he should play another position. I’m telling you, because nowadays that guy once he’s out on the field has got to be like a coach on the field.
Alex Smith finally blossomed into a Pro Bowl quarterback once he was mentored by Jim Harbaugh. Ryan Fitzpatrick may not undergo the same transformation under the tutelage of O’Brien. He can become good enough to kickstart the next phase of the Houston Texans franchise.