The New York Jets didn’t exactly tip the scales in March when they traded for Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Fitzpatrick was coming off a quietly solid season with the Texans that ended in an injury, and the Jets were looking for a backup quarterback.
The Jets sent a seventh-round draft pick to the Texans in exchange for Fitzpatrick, with the condition that the pick would turn into a sixth-round pick if Fitzpatrick played 70% of the snaps for the Jets this season.
Fitzpatrick has reportedly hit that mark, meaning the Texans will get a sixth-round pick. Although that ups the price it cost to get Fitzpatrick, nine months after that trade, it’s clear the Jets got the better end of the deal.
Geno Smith was supposed to be the starter, set to have a breakout year, and he was reportedly having a solid training camp. Head coach Todd Bowles said the Jets were committed to helping Smith succeed, and NJ.com’s Darryl Slater said during training camp that it would be a “stunner” if Fitzpatrick replaced Smith as the starter.
However, during training camp former Jet IK Enemkpali broke Smith’s jaw over a $600 aeroplane ticket. With Smith needing several weeks to recover, the Jets were forced to hand Fitzpatrick the reins
Fitzpatrick’s time with the Jets hasn’t been entirely positive, but at 8-5, the team is having its best season in five years, right in the thick of the playoff race. Meanwhile, Fitzpatrick is having, arguably, the best season of his career. Though his completion rate is down and he seems unlikely to beat his career-high of 3,832 passing yards, Fitzpatrick has a career-high touchdown rate, a career-high average in yards per game, and career-low interception and sack rates.
Fitzpatrick’s play has elevated at the right time, too, as the Jets fight for the playoffs. During the Jets’ current three-game win streak, Fitzpatrick has completed 63% of his passes, thrown nine touchdowns with no interceptions, and has an average passer rating of 111.9.
With Fitzpatrick set to hit free agency this offseason, he and the Jets have agreed they would like a reunion next season. Jets head coach Todd Bowles raved about Fitzpatrick, saying:
“I think he’s doing things a lot better. I think he’s a lot calmer. I think he’s not trying to win games by himself, mainly. Obviously, he has talent around him to do some of those things, but most quarterbacks do. He’s very intelligent. He can make you feel at home and he’s a funny guy. He can make you feel like you want to play hard for him. He just has that personality that everybody gravitates towards.”
As Bowles mentions, Fitzpatrick has a bevy of weapons around him. Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker are both talented, athletic receivers, Chris Ivory has emerged as a top running back, and the offensive line ranks fourth in Football Outsiders’ pass protection. Additionally, Fitzpatrick has a sturdy defence to rely upon, allowing the Jets to play conservatively, knowing their defence can carry an equal amount of weight. Fitzpatrick hasn’t been perfect, and it’s fair to wonder how good the Jets could be with a better quarterback, but he’s proven a solid, steady fit.
In comparison, while there is always talent deep in the draft — Tom Brady was a sixth-rounder, Fitzpatrick was a seventh-rounder, for instance — the Jets are probably fine with the price they paid for Fitzpatrick.
The Jets unexpectedly got their starting quarterback, and while a draft pick can turn into anything, it’s proven to be a worthwhile gamble for a success-starved team.
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