Hello, all. Buddy Nix caused quite a stir with comments insisting that Ryan Fitzpatrick will not continue to struggle as he did in Week 1 and that Buffalo is confident things will be different moving forward. The following are thoughts I've had throughout the week but I refrained from fanposting simply because I had previously expressed my growing boredom with the Fitzpatrick discussion during the week and thought it would be pretty hypocritical. But oh well, when the GM talks and the fanbase reacts strongly, I guess it changes things. Basically, I agree with Buddy Nix - I think he's right. I've gone out on a limb and proclaimed a few things over the years, sometimes with success (Bell leaving, Mario Williams signing) but often with failure (Terrell Owens would make Lee Evans a true no.1, Trent Edwards was the real deal). and here's one more with a definitive answer in a few hours - Ryan Fitzpatrick is going to have a good game for Buffalo today.
1. Ryan Fitzpatrick is Expectedly Maddeningly Inconsistent - While it's easy to panic after your quarterback throws 3 interceptions and looks AWFUL in week 1, a quick look at Ryan Fitzpatrick and a short jog of your own memory should serve to remind that Fitz has always been a boom or bust QB. He doesn't tend to play "ok", he tends to have a good game or a bad game. Last week, Fitzpatrick's QB rating was a 66.5 so I figured using 67 as my barometer for a "bad" Fitz game seemed appropriate. 68-87, I deemed as an average game and 88+ was a good game. Here's how Fitzpatrick's record as a starter in Buffalo bears those ranges out:
QB Rating / # of Games / Bills Record
0-67 / 4 / 2-2
68-87 / 3 / 1-2
88-158 / 2 / 2-0
1st Gailey, 2010
0-67 / 4 / 0-4
68-87 / 3 / 1 -2
88-158 / 6 / 3-3
2nd Gailey, 2011
0-67 / 5 / 0-5
68-87 / 3 / 1-2
88-158 / 8 / 5-3
What sticks out here? Obviously, first and foremost, Ryan Fitzpatrick is feast or famine under Chan Gailey. An improvement from basically "famine" without him. Second, the Bills win when he's playing well and lose - a lot - when he wets the bed. This is not surprising. Most relevant to the panic over Fitzpatrick ruining the season I believe is that he has had essentially the same number of "bad" games a year while continuing to start more games each year, meaning his percentage of "bad" game is progressively decreasing under Chan Gailey. His number of "average" games is also staying the same and thus decreasing in frequency. Further, his number of "good" games has gone up every year, from only 2 without Gailey to 6 and then 8. Progressively, it appears Fitzpatrick - contrary to popular opinion - is actually getting MORE consistent each year in the "feast" department in the system. He is having more "good" games to bad, and when he does, the Bills are 10-6 - this is encouraging. When "bad" Fitzpatrick does show up as he did in week 1, the Bills have no hope, going 2-11. In fact, its not very hopeful the few times he's average either, 3-6. But to me, this points to the odds favoring a good Fitzpatrick game today.
2. The Jets have always dominated Fitzpatrick - Another reason I think Buddy Nix is on to something is that it is notoriously difficult to gauge Fitzpatrick's abilities as a QB when he plays the Jets. He had one good game against them last year, a game we still lost, and that is completely the outlier. Here are what his numbers look like against the Jets - warning, its ugly:
Fitzpatrick vs the Jets
Game 1 2009 : 10/25, 40%, 116 yds, 1:1 TD:turnover, 4.6 ypa, 51.4 QB rating, WON
Game 2 2009: 9/23, 39%, 98 yds, 0:2 TD:turnover, 4.3 ypa, 34.3 QB rating, LOST
Game 1 2010: 12/27, 44.4%, 128 yds, 2:0 TD:turnover, 4.7 ypa, 83.6 QB rating, LOST
Game 1 2011: 15/31, 48.4%, 191 yds, 1:2 TD:turnover, 6.2 ypa, 51.9 QB rating, LOST
Game 2 2011: 26/39, 66.7, 264 yds, 3:0 TD:turnover, 6.8 ypa, 111.5 LOST
TOTALS: 72/145, 49.6%, 159.4, 7:5, 5.4, 66.54, 1-4.
Maaaaan, that is BAD. Prior to the second Jets game last season, Fitzpatrick didn't have a single game completing 50% of his passes against Rex Ryan's defense. He didnt have one game passing for 200 yards against Rex Ryan's defense, he didnt have one game hitting 7 yards an attempt - NO shots down the field. For some perspective, in 2009, Rex Ryan games accounted for half of Fitzpatrick's "bad" games. How can we judge Fitzpatrick - and by extension the Bills, especially with how tethered our success is to our quarterback's - on a game against a team that has historically OWNED him? I don't think its indicative of whats to come, and yet another reason I expect better things today from Fitz, just like Buddy does.
3. The tales of Fitzpatrick always having games like Week 1 are overblown - I keep hearing that Ryan Fitzpatrick always has games as bad - which is to say terrible - as he did in week 1 in regards to turnovers. Here are the facts - from his first start in 2009 until week 9 last year, Ryan Fitzpatrick only threw ONE 3 interception game like he did in week 1. To put it in perspective that spans Ryan Fitzpatrick's life from the age of 27 to 29. That is 22 football games, in 22 games Fitz only had one 3 interception game. This doesn't mean the panic isn't unjustifiable and I'm certainly not here to say that those concerned are wrong - they are not. Because Fitzpatrick has since had FOUR 3 turnover games in his last 9. This also makes him seem like he is more of a turnover machine than he actually is, football memories are short - what have you done for me lately. Now, maybe this is something Chan Gailey has to fix or just maybe this period happens to span the period of time when Stevie Johnson - Fitz' favorite target and his only receiver I'd label as "good" - has been hobbled by a groin injury. By all accounts, Stevie is healthy. By all accounts, including Brian's, Fitzpatrick is a streaky player. His previous streak was longer, 22 games with only one game of 3 or more picks to 4 in the last 9. Given the pressure, and Fitzpatrick's penchant for playing gutsy when the lights are bright, I think this points to this streak snapping and Ftiz going back to his median.
Closing Statements: I'm not a Fitzpatrick "fanboy" by any means, though I do love the QB because of his style, I think he has displayed alarming limitations in terms of arm strength. I'm not saying Fitzpatrick is the long-term answer, because signs point to the fact that he might not be. But I am saying that I think historically he is not as bad as week 1 indicated, that he is in fact getting better in Gailey's system in the big picture, and that his recent struggles might be a streak and not a trend. Those who are concerned with Fitz should not be ridiculed, warnings are warranted, but I am gonna go out there and say he has a good game today. If he doesn't well, then I'll be wrong. But I think I'm right on this one.
I'll leave this as my thought of the day: At this time last year, the Buffalo Bills had just beaten the Kansas City Chiefs 41-7, on the road at Arrowhead - one of the most hostile environments in the NFL - and Ryan Fitzpatrick had thrown 4 touchdowns and 0 interceptions completing 68% of his passes for a passer rating of 133 against one of the best young secondaries in the league going nearly 12 yards per attempt!
What do you think the reaction would have been if that off-season had been as hyped as this one?