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Ryan Fitzpatrick on What's Next for Him, and for Tua Tagovailoa

Kalyn KahlerContributor IFebruary 5, 2021

Ryan Fitzpatrick celebrates the Dolphins' Dec. 26 win with Isaiah Ford.
Ryan Fitzpatrick celebrates the Dolphins' Dec. 26 win with Isaiah Ford.David Becker/Associated Press

He made the greatest no-look pass of his lifetime in the last game he played this season, but Ryan Fitzpatrick isn't ready to call it a career. The 38-year-old quarterback has earned a reputation as the stopgap veteran who can take your rebuilding team and turn it into a legitimate contender, and he's looking for his next opportunity to start.

"Getting a chance to go to Miami and to be the guy and to be able to have a hand in helping turn around a franchise like that is the part that really reenergized me in proving it to myself that I can go out there and do it and be a big part of a franchise," Fitzpatrick told Bleacher Report, while promoting Mountain Dew's Major Melon Super Bowl commercial.

After starting Miami's first six games this season as the Dolphins groomed No. 5 pick Tua Tagovailoa, Fitzpatrick will be a free agent and is a key part of a fascinating quarterback market with an array of potential suitors. Chicago, New England, Indianapolis and Denver are among the teams that could be in the market for a veteran QB like Fitzpatrick.

Fitzpatrick told The Pat McAfee Show this week that the greatest thing about being an old quarterback is he can say exactly how he feels and not worry about what people think. So how does he feel right now? Where does FitzMagic want to take his powers next?

"I want to play next season," he laughed, and deflected. "One of the biggest things for me is I want an opportunity to compete and be out there on the field. I definitely enjoy playing the game of football, and being out there and doing it with your teammates is a lot more fun than sitting on the sideline."

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Fitzpatrick has been through this routine before. He's played for eight different teams, and the longest he's ever been in one place was four seasons with the Bills from 2009 to 2012.

"There's so much chatter," he said. "I used to be, very much every single day, every minute of every day, What is going on, what is happening here and there. The [Matthew] Stafford deal happened, which was a blockbuster crazy doesn't-happen-every-year-type trade, but other stuff starts heating up in March, so it doesn't do anybody any good to think about it until March rolls around."

One of the stories Fitzpatrick follows is Deshaun Watson's request to get out of Houston, which, if granted, could be a symbolic moment for player empowerment.

"I know it happens a lot more in the NBA. In the NFL it is more difficult, and there are very few guys that possess that power and the talent to be able to do that," Fitzpatrick said.

"Deshaun is one of them, and he has earned a right to do it. I don't see it as something that is going to happen all the time because there are very few guys that are in that and have that status in the NFL."

Tagovailoa has taken a lot of heat recently after a mediocre-to-disappointing rookie season. The Miami Herald published a story with anonymous quotes from Dolphins players who questioned Tagovailoa's future as their starter and raised concerns about the decision to move in Tagovailoa as the starter over Fitzpatrick.

David Zalubowski/Associated Press

When asked directly if Tagovailoa is the answer for Miami as their franchise quarterback, Fitzpatrick didn't say yes.

"For him, I think he had a good rookie year, and I think people are being very hard on him," he said. "But it is very difficult to play this position, especially as a rookie with no offseason and hardly a training camp.

"So this is going to be a big year for him. I think he is going to make a huge jump, just being more comfortable, not just with the football aspect, but he lives in a new city and has settled in a little bit. You have to figure out housing, cars, everything else.

"All that stuff has settled down, and he is settled in now. So I think we are going to see a huge jump here for him."

Yes, Fitzpatrick defended Tagovailoa from the criticism he's faced and predicted a big improvement in year two for the young QB, but because of his close interaction with Tagovailoa, it feels noteworthy that Fitzpatrick didn't silence the doubters and answer the question with full confidence and a definitive "Yes, he's the franchise quarterback."

It's unlikely Fitzpatrick would re-sign with Miami because it's clear he's looking for an opportunity to come in as a starter. In January, Dolphins general manager Chris Grier publicly committed to Tagovailoa as Miami's starting quarterback. If Miami brought Fitzpatrick back, it would cast doubt on that commitment to Tagovailoa.

"It's a crazy, crazy business," Fitzpatrick said when asked if he would be open to returning to the Dolphins. "I never would rule anything out. I will say, my last two years in Miami, not just the players and coaches, but that organization, the people that make up the bones of that organization, the kitchen staff or equipment guys: There are so many amazing people in that building. I really did love my two years there."

           

Kalyn Kahler covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow her on Twitter for NFL musings and thoughts: @KalynKahler.

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