Fitzpatrick was signed to win a game like Sunday’s

by Gary Shelton on November 10, 2017 · 6 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs

Friday, 3 a.m.

For all of the noise that arrived with him, this is why he is here.

To win a game. To keep the car out of the ditch. To keep a losing streak from eating a franchise alive.

Ryan Fitzpatrick was never going to beat out Jameis Winston for the starting job. He was never going to lead a run toward the playoffs. He was never going to take over a team for the long haul. But a game or two here or there? That wasn't too much to hope for.

Now, against one of his many former teams, he has a chance.

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Oh, you can find people who doubt him. Vince Young, of all people, sneered that Fitzpatrick is still in a league that, frankly, has thrown Young away. Still, he is here.

So far, that has brought mixed results. The Bucs were behind 24-0 when Fitzpatrick came in against the Cardinals; they lost 38-33. They were behind 16-3 when he entered against the Saints (a 30-10 loss).

Against the Jets, Fitzpatrick seems to have a fighting chance against a former team that was expected to be among the league's worst this year.

“I think he is a very confident player,” said offensive coordinator Todd Monkin.” I mean his demeanor – he’s played enough football and seen enough things to where if you asked to a man on our team if they felt like what Ryan would bring to the table, (they would say) poise, confidence, has the ability to move with his feet to create plays with his feet, his timing – he is going to get the ball out – and he is accurate. That’s why we brought him here. (We) brought him here to have an experienced backup so if this happened you would still give yourself a chance to win every given Sunday and I believe that.”

Obviously, the Bucs' plan would seem to change with Fitzpatrick. They'll need to run the ball more and throw shorter patterns.

“It’s hard for me to say exactly how the game plan would change,” Monken said. “I wouldn’t say from us – I mean both quarterbacks we have are relatively athletic and make plays with their feet. They can move around in the pocket. I think where it changes as we get moving forward with Ryan is each quarterback has a confidence level. You could have the same exact game plan but certain quarterbacks have a more confident level. I kind of like that concept a little bit more. Sometimes it’s about the concept they believe in as much as what we believe in. I think that’s where you’ll see more of that.”

Fitzpatrick is looking forward to seeing his old team.

I think first just looking at the probability of it happening since I’ve been on six different team it gets greater and greater. It’s definitely an ironic situation – me getting my first start here versus the Jets (after) playing with them for the last two years. I’ve been in this situation before with other teams and the biggest thing is I’ve got a lot of friends still in that building, whether they are players or coaches or guys on staff. (There is) a lot of mutual respect, I think, between us,” Fitzpatrick said. “But, we’re all competitors too. I know I want to beat them bad just like they want to beat me bad, so that will go into it. Then just the familiarity of Todd (Bowles) being able to watch me practice for two years and me being able to practice against his defense for two years – there is some different things they are doing and some different faces and guys that they have on their defense, but him knowing me well and me kind of knowing at least personnel pretty well – those kind of cancel each other out I think.”

Fitzpatrick said he considered retirement before joining the Bucs.

“I was pretty close just to being done, which was a really hard thing for me just because I enjoy playing so much. I enjoy being around it so much,” he said. “I got a call from Dirk (Koetter) and we talked and I ended up signing here. Really, I don’t think it was until I was in that Arizona game in the second half playing that I maybe realized how much I would’ve missed it if I didn’t play. That was probably the moment if you are looking for one of me just being reassured that I made the right decision. I’ve really enjoyed my time here so far and I’m looking forward to this opportunity.

“I think it’s funny how as the losses add to perspective changes a little bit. Before those two division games, just in terms of statistics and things, we were humming pretty good offensively. I just think there are ebbs and flows as the season goes on and we’ve just happened to stack a couple of bad weeks in a row. I think the biggest word is just consistency. That doesn’t fall on one guy or one position group. That falls on everybody. For me going out there, and even in practice every day, I’m just trying to be consistent and efficient in everything that I do. Hopefully that trickles down. The guys are putting in the work, so I’m not worried about the guys that we have in the huddle. We’ve just got to go out there and do what we’ve been taught and I think everything will take care of itself.”

Fitzpatrick said he doesn't know Josh McCown, the ex-Buc who will play against him, well.

“I don’t know Josh real well,” he said. “We have a lot of mutual friends or people that we’ve both crossed paths with and I’ve heard nothing but great things about him. Some of that is coming from this building and the guys that played with him, but some of that is coming from all around the league too. I’ve heard nothing but great things about him. We’ve texted a little bit, but never really talked all that much. I look at a guy like that and really respect how he has stuck with it, kind of like me. My career has had plenty of ups and downs. His has too, moving around. (We are) both family guys. You can see the passion that he has to play the game when he plays, so I’ve got nothing but respect for him.”

For Fitzpatrick, it has been a long, winding career through seven teams.

“St. Louis – I got engaged at a McDonald’s across the street from the practice facility. I got married and (we) had our first kid there,” Fitzpatrick said. “That’s what pops in my mind when I think about St. Louis.

“Cincinnati – I think about Carson Palmer and Ken Zampese and Marvin Lewis – just the things I learned there. That was really my first time as an extended starter, having 12 starts there. Whenever I think about Cincinnati, I’m very grateful for the opportunity that Marvin Lewis gave me.

“Moving on to Buffalo, there’s a million different thoughts but the first thing I think about is ‘Crock-Pot Sunday.’ That pops into my head. After every Sunday, our neighbors would all get together, sit in the front yard, eat out of the Crock-Pot, drink beer (and) the kids (were) playing, so that’s what pops into my mind there.

“Moving on to Tennessee, I think about – Nashville was a very cool place, so maybe like the Cowboy boots I got there – I think about that.

“Houston goes straight to Halloween in my neighborhood (and) the amazing time we had there. Bill O’Brien and the stuff I learned from Bill O’Brien and George Godsey pops into my head.

“With the Jets – Chan Gailey pops into mind, a guy that I was with for three years in Buffalo that had a huge impact on my career, going to the Jets and getting to be in his offense again. I think about my relationships with Nick Mangold and some of the other guys like Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker – just the cool bond that all of us were able to form. I don’t think I missed any.

“Then so far here, the biggest impact maybe for me has been Jameis (Winston) and just the daily interaction with him. Just seeing how much he cares about this game, how passionate he is and how he gives everything he can to it. I really have come to respect him as a person and a player and that’s been fun for me getting to know him.”

Ah, but how will Tampa Bay remember Fitzpatrick.

It depends on Sunday, doesn't it?

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