TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 30: Ryan Fitzpatrick #14 of the Buffalo Bills listens to head coach Chan Gailey during a time out against the Washington Redskins at Rogers Centre on October 30, 2011 in Toronto, Ontario. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
Here's a (potentially painful) reminder of the quarterback that Ryan Fitzpatrick was during the Buffalo Bills' 5-2 start last season: after a 23-0 drubbing of Washington, Fitzpatrick was completing 67.7 percent of his passes (155-of-229) at 7.6 yards per attempt (1,739 passing yards) with 14 touchdowns, 7 interceptions and a quarterback rating of 97.8. He was a strong candidate for the Pro Bowl at that time, and he'd already locked up an AFC Offensive Player of the Month award, as well.
That, ladies and gentlemen, is the quarterback that head coach Chan Gailey expects Fitzpatrick to be for 16 games this coming season.
"I think Fitz can certainly play to the level that he played at last year when we were 5-2," Gailey told BuffaloBills.com. "That's what I expect him to be for the entire season. I think he can do that; I think he will do that."
That game in Washington has been considered the turning point in the season for Fitzpatrick, who reportedly suffered two cracked ribs from a vicious London Fletcher hit in that contest. Gailey has acknowledged that injury in post-season interviews, and has partially blamed Fitzpatrick's dramatic second-half slide to that injury.
"We've got to keep him healthy," Gailey told Chris Brown. "We've got to make sure that we're hitting on all cylinders on offense. I think there's no question that we can achieve lofty goals if we just play the way we're supposed to play."
This is, indeed, a lofty goal that Gailey has set for his quarterback and his offense. In 29 games as the starting quarterback under Gailey, Fitzpatrick's quarterback rating has hovered right around 80, and he's been a turnover machine, throwing 38 interceptions - including a league-high 23 a year ago - and losing an additional seven fumbles. Minimizing turnovers might be the fastest way for Fitzpatrick to make that climb; he turned the ball over just eight times during the Bills' hot start a year ago.
What do you think, Bills fans: are Gailey's expectations for Fitzpatrick too rich?