Among Washington Football Team fans, there remains some significant skepticism about the team’s talent at the quarterback position. A number of fans think that this team is pretty close to set everywhere else, but that starting QB, Ryan Fitzpatrick, simply doesn’t have the skills to take this team to the next level. That perspective, however, is in marked contrast to the lion’s share of the writers here at Hogs Haven.
As most regular readers know, the contributors here are an opinionated bunch, and while there are occasional areas of strong agreement, consensus on controversial topics is often hard to come by. In 2021, however, a general sentiment – arrived at through several different lens – seems to have developed around the notion that Fitzpatrick can lead this team to substantial success this year.
This piece will walk through – contributor by contributor – their analyses of Fitzpatrick’s path to success.
At least as far back as January 15th, I was lobbying for the addition of Fitzpatrick to an increasingly solid roster, that was poised to improve further through the draft and free agency:
Ryan Fitzpatrick is getting up there, but like a fine wine, he seems to get better with age. His 95.6 QBR was the second highest of his career, and had the Dolphins started him all season, they likely would have made the playoffs. Fitzpatrick is a near ideal fit for our situation. He can compete on a level playing field with Allen and Heinicke for the starting role, and if he doesn’t win the job, he can mentor the winner throughout the season. Grabbing Fitz also takes pressure off Rivera/Smith to draft a near term starter this year, instead allowing them to continue to build out the rest of the team. Finally, Fitz absolutely embodies Rivera’s “guys who like playing football” ethic.
When he was signed late on March 15th, I was gleeful, recognizing the myriad short term, and long term, beneficial impacts that it was going to have on the team. It also strongly signaled Coach Rivera’s longer term team building philosophy, which has since become even more apparent:
Some look at a 1-year deal for a 38 year old Fitzpatrick and say this is the embodiment of a short term move. How can he be the future? Of course Ryan Fitzpatrick isn’t the WFT QB of the future. The stability he brings, however, will allow Ron and his staff, and the rest of the team, to focus on building out the rest of the team for the future.
I’ve said it elsewhere, but the endless treadmill of searching in vain for a superstar QB is one of the most corrosive shibboleths of NFL team building. “Find the star QB and the rest will fall into place.” One only has to look at the 2020 Houston Texans to see how that plays out.
Subsequently, I’ve written about how Fitzpatrick’s style, and the skills of Washington’s current receivers, are a near ideal match:
[W]ith an array of weapons tailored to his strength, Fitzpatrick’s talents are incredibly well-suited to both Turner’s offensive approach and the players who will be surrounding him on the 2021 Washington Football Team.
And, most recently, I wrote a retrospective piece looking back at Fitzpatrick’s career, and when he had tended to perform best:
For the past three seasons, though, we see Fitzpatrick bucking a bit of a trend, playing some of his best football in spite of his two worst defenses, in 2018 and 2019, and then – probably not surprisingly – having a great season playing with the highest ranked defense of his career, the 2020 Dolphins.
In my estimation, this bodes very well for Washington in 2021. Washington’s defense last year – ranked 4th in the NFL – was better than any defense Fitzpatrick has played alongside in his career, and it appears to have improved this offseason. I would be surprised if, given the historical pattern of Ryan’s career this doesn’t end up being his best statistical season, assuming he’s able to stay healthy and resist the urge to try to put this team on his back.
Over the course of the past couple of years, Matt has established his skills using deep analytical data dives to better understand draft outcomes and player performance. Earlier this month, he turned his sights on Fitzpatrick to try to give fans a better sense of what they could expect from the well-traveled quarterback this season. His data-driven conclusions should have fans excited about the near future:
Vastly improved QB play compared to what we have got used to in the last three seasons. Terry McLaurin, Curtis Samuel and Dyami Brown should get plenty of opportunities to showcase their deep ball tracking skills.
Contrary to widespread misconceptions, in recent years, Fitzpatrick’s play has been no more inconsistent from week to week than many of the best QBs in the league, including names like Drew Brees, Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers, Lamar Jackson, and Tom Brady.
Fitzpatrick does not play mistake-free football, and he has a bad game from time to time. However, his worst performances are not appreciably worse than some of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, and he doesn’t have really bad games any more frequently than the best quarterbacks either.
Forget what you thought you knew about Fitzpatrick and enjoy the ride.
Hogs Haven’s resident sage, Bill, tends to take a slightly different approach to persuasion, and this season, he’s the most optimistic of all of our writers, predicting a Ryan Fitzpatrick-led Super Bowl championship for this star-crossed team:
With a talented roster surrounding him — and especially a strong defense that he can rely on — can Ryan Fitzpatrick lead a team to a division championship for the first time in his career?
I’m on record as believing he can, but after a less-than-inspiring preseason, I’ll be watching closely to see what No. 14 can do at home against the Chargers on opening day.
Though my recollection is that Mark really disliked the move to get Fitzpatrick at the time – hoping instead that the team would draft a young QB, or trade for someone like Matt Stafford – he seems to have come around to the notion that Fitzpatrick is both the team’s best QB option, and that Fitz can lead the team to regular season success and a playoff win.
Unlike some out there, I really don’t feel like this is an open competition. Essentially, Ryan Fitzpatrick has to do something REALLY bad, and do it over a consistent basis during camp, to not be named the starter.
Taylor Heinicke and Kyle Allen may both FEEL like they are being given every opportunity to WIN this so called “competition”, but I feel like it’s just a formality that Fitz gets handed the reigns during the final week of camp… and his leash will be long throughout the season.
In my several years here, I’ve come to appreciate that Hogs Haven writers (and posters) are a wonderful mix of cynicism and optimism, with each of us more or less traumatized by our relationship with this organization over the past 30 years.
Most of the writers are fortunate enough to be sustained by the amazing memories of yesteryear, while many of the posters here are simply too young to have experienced those days. It’s rare, however, that optimism of the sort articulated here in favor of Ryan Fitzpatrick is so uniformly shared. I’m choosing to take it as a very good sign. How about you?