The Life Cycle of the Bearded Phoenix: Ryan Fitzpatrick
Ryan “Fitzmagic” mania took the NFL world by storm early in the season. The many faces and forms of Ryan Fitzpatrick have never been better. Fitzpatrick is a smart man–he attend Harvard University, but who could ever forget his impersonation of MMA superstar Conor McGregor at the post-game press conference?
It’s rare to see a QB in the NFL with such massive amounts of impressive facial hair as well. Have you ever taken a closer look at the NFL career of Ryan Fitzpatrick?
The career of Ryan Fitzpatrick is one of the most unique in all of football. His career is that of a mythical phoenix. In Greek mythology, a phoenix is a bird that grows large and beautiful into adulthood only to literally die in a burst of flames. The phoenix is then born again from the ashes of its predecessor only to mature and then die again in a combustion of fire. Let me explain:
Entering the NFL:
Ryan Fitzpatrick was a long-shot to make an NFL roster but as a smart guy–he scored nearly a perfect score on the NFL’s wonderlic test in just nine minutes–with a rocket arm, he had a chance. Fitzpatrick, from Gilbert, Arizona, was drafted by the St. Louis Rams in the 7th Round of the 2005 NFL Draft. He played in his first NFL game coming off the bench to replace an injured Jamie Martin and led the Rams from a 24-3 deficit to a 33-27 overtime win.
Fitzpatrick was named NFC Player of the Week for his accomplishments. The legend of “Fitzmagic,” the phoenix, was born. As a microcosm for his career, Fitzpatrick would quickly burn out. His come-from-behind win would earn him three more starts–making him the first Harvard QB to ever start a game in the NFL–but he could not find the same success he found in his debut. Fitzpatrick would eventually be traded to the Cincinnati Bengals in 2007 and signed with the Buffalo Bills in 2009.
After an 0-2 start, the Buffalo Bills decided to give Fitzpatrick the start in the 3rd game of the season. Fitzmagic was born, leading the Bills to a 49-31 comeback win over his former team, the Cincinnati Bengals. He threw for 316 yards and 4 touchdowns. Fitzpatrick had matured into full-on “Fitzmagic.” He would go on to throw at least 1 touchdown pass in 13 straight games. However, “Fitzmagic” would soon burn out and be reborn from the ashes as “Fitztragic.” In 2011, “Fitztragic” led the NFL with 23 interceptions.
It wouldn’t take long though, soon the phoenix QB would bloom into his mature form. In his 4th season with the Bills, Ryan Fitzpatrick would burn bright as “Fitzmagic” once again throwing for 3400 yards and 24 touchdowns in 2012. With his contract expiring and his coach fired, Ryan Fitzpatrick was released by the Bills following the 2012 season.
The Titans & Texans era:
The Tennessee Titans signed reborn-form Ryan Fitzpatrick to a two-year deal in 2013. If you’re a starting QB in the NFL and your team signs Fitzpatrick, it’s a bad omen for your health. Once again, Fitzpatrick entered a game due to an injury to the starting QB–Jake Locker of the Titans this time paying the price. Fitzpatrick would lead the Titans to a 38-13 win over the New York Jets.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, the young phoenix, didn’t stay long in Tennessee though only lasting one season after starting 9 games with 2,454 yards, 14 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions. In 2014, the division rival Houston Texans would sign Ryan Fitzpatrick to a two-year deal. Base-form Ryan Fitzpatrick is just an average QB. He would eventually be relegated to the role of backup.
However, starting QB Ryan Mallett would be injured, and Fitzpatrick would once again get a chance to face his former team, the Tennessee Titans. In yet another revenge game, Ryan Fitzpatrick began to glow red hot and his fire inextinguishable.
He would torch the Titans to the tune of 45-21 with 358 yards, 6 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions. He was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week for his accomplishments. Fitzmagic would flame out after breaking his leg the next week.
The New York Jets era:
With the quick life cycle in Houston, Fitztragic quickly grew into Fitzmagic once again. In 2015, the Texans traded Fitzpatrick to the New York Jets. The New York Jets had a young starting QB in place, Geno Smith, but you know the story by now.
The phoenix would find a way onto the field. Geno Smith would have his jaw broken in a locker room fight during the preseason by a teammate. (You cannot make this stuff up). During the 2015 season, Fitzmagic was burn brighter than ever. He threw for over 3900 yards, 31 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions. It was his best year as a professional.
Upon the completion of the 2015 season, the Jets honored their red-hot QB with a contract extension in 2016. However, the damage was done. It would be another season that would go down in flames. Ryan Fitztragic’s QBR dropped 20 points from 2015 to 2016, as he threw for 2700 yards, only 12 touchdowns, and 17 interceptions.
The Jets terminated his contract following the 2016 season. At age 33, would this be the end of the phoenix, Ryan Fitzpatrick?
The Tampa Bay Bucs era:
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: Ryan Fitzpatrick signs after a flame-out year to a team with a young, upcoming QB already in place as the starting QB. In 2017, the Tampa Bay Bucs signed Ryan Fitzpatrick to serve as Jameis Winston’s backup. Early in the season, Jameis Winston would suffer a shoulder injury in a game against the Arizona Cardinals.
Ryan Fitzpatrick would lead a comeback effort that would fall just short at 38-33. He threw for 290 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions in only 2 quarters of playing time. Winston would come back though. However, he wouldn’t last long, getting injured again and again throughout the season. Ryan Fitzpatrick would emerge from the ashes in spot-start duties throughout the 2017 season throwing for 1100 yards, 7 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions.
During the offseason, Jameis Winston would be suspended for 3 games for sexually assaulting an Uber driver (once again, you can’t make this stuff up). The Tampa Bay Bucs would decide to keep Ryan Fitzpatrick with a short extension. At age 35, could the phoenix catch fire one last time? For his 3 games playing with house money, Ryan Fitzpatrick would be underdogs against former playoff teams in each game.
The flames would burn bright though. In week 1, against the New Orleans Saints, Ryan Fitzpatrick would be named NFC Offensive Player of the Week for passing for 417 yards, 4 touchdowns, and also rushing for another touchdown. The legend of Ryan Fitzmagic was reborn yet again. NFL fans around the world were engulfed in Fitzmagic mania.
He would repeat this performance again the following week against the Philadelphia Eagles throwing for 402 yards and 4 touchdowns improving the Bucs’ record to 2-0. The entire country was feeling the heat from the phoenix. The following week, Fitzmagic would play against the Pittsburgh Steelers in primetime on nationally televised Monday Night Football.
After a rocky start, Ryan Fitzmagic would led the comeback charge nearly upsetting the Steelers 30-27. Fitzmagic became the first player in NFL history to throw for 400+ yards in three straight games as he racked up 411 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions in primetime. The beard got fire, and it burned him. The following week Jameis Winston would replace Fitztragic at halftime in a 48-10 blowout loss.
Will we ever see the phoenix rise from the ashes again?
Ryan Fitzpatrick is now 35 years old. Father Time catches up with us all, even creatures from Greek mythology. For now, as fans of the bearded one, we can only hope. Rise from the ashes, Ryan. We need more Fitzmagic.
The life cycle of the bearded phoenix, Ryan Fitzpatrick:
Ryan Fitzpatrick > Ryan Fitzmagic > Ryan Fitztragic > Ryan Fitzpatrick