After a blazing start for veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tampa Bay’s bearded hero appeared to come back to Earth Monday night against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The shoddy effort from Fitzpatrick in the first half has everyone wondering if his performance across the last three weeks has been enough to keep him on the field with Jameis Winston’s return to the team looming.
To many fans, last night’s game symbolized the end of “Fitzmagic”. But if we look at the big picture, we find that even though it didn’t look as pretty, Ryan Fitzpatrick is still performing at an extremely high level. Let’s first look at Fitzpatrick’s production in the first two weeks of the season, and then add the third game to see how much regression has actually occurred.
For further reference, let’s compare what Ryan Fitzpatrick is doing this season against his last full season as a starter, 2015 for the New York Jets. In 2015 Fitzpatrick had a respectable season, he completed 59.6% of his pass attempts for 3,900 yards at 6.9 yards per attempt. These are figures much closer to what we expect out of Fitzpatrick than the lofty numbers he’s been producing in the last three weeks. What stands out most is the difference in his completion percentage as well as yards per attempt. This signals that Fitzpatrick is completing more passes, specifically more deep passes with the Buccaneers than he ever did with the Jets, Texans, or Bills.
So what gives? How is it that at 35 years old, Ryan Fitzpatrick all of the sudden possesses on of the best arms in professional football? Answer: He doesn’t. What we’re witnessing the product of a loaded air attack featuring Mike Evans, Desean Jackson, O.J. Howard, Cameron Brate, and Chris Godwin; not some mystical essence hidden in Ryan Fitzpatrick’s beard. Fitzpatrick has the luxury of at least one mismatch to exploit on any given snap. Three of his aforementioned targets stand at 6’5″ or taller, and the other two can get 40 yards downfield in under 4.5 seconds.
Ryan Fitzpatrick is a good quarterback, not a great quarterback. He is thriving in a fully weaponized offense and statistical outproducing anything he’s ever done. To answer the posed question “Is Fitzmagic Fading?”, no, Fitzmagic isn’t fading because Fitzmagic doesn’t exist. Football is a team game, and it seems that Tampa Bay has a formidable team with Fitzpatrick under center, but he is not the Buccaneer’s messiah.
All of that said, at the rate Ryan Fitzpatrick is currently going, he deserves to continue to start for the Bucs. Should Fitzpatrick show more serious regression, give Winston the reins, but until then, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.