Perspective | Ryan Fitzpatrick is Washington’s new life preserver, however the franchise remains to be treading water


Waking as much as the information Tuesday that Washington will signal Fitzpatrick to a one-year deal value as much as $12 million with incentives can convey competing ideas that in some way coexist: “Makes full sense,” and “What’s the endgame right here?”

Take the “is sensible” half first. For Washington, stability at quarterback would imply the identical individual beginning all 16 (or 17) video games in a season, the bottom of bars. Fitzpatrick at the very least enters camp poised to do precisely that. Yeah, Taylor Heinicke and Kyle Allen are again, too, however their résumés are the other of Fitzpatrick’s, single stanzas versus your complete Odyssey. Plus, the veteran is making eight figures, the opposite two fractions of that. Comply with the cash.

Fitzpatrick is a bona fide chief and an infinite persona who instantly ups the Q-rating in Washington’s QB room. Even his beard is fascinating. (What does he retailer in there, anyway? Every week’s value of groceries? His seven kids?) Alex Smith’s story was undeniably unbelievable. Alex Smith’s phrases had been invariably vanilla. Fitzpatrick’s midweek media periods have the potential to be must-see TV — to not point out the truth that he can nonetheless sling it.

The most effective argument to maintain Smith round was his 5-1 file as a starter in 2020, and that shouldn’t be dismissed. However discover one other statistic — to not point out any visceral or visible proof — that signifies Smith can be higher than Fitzpatrick in 2021. It’s practically inconceivable. One stat is sufficient for me: Final season, Smith ranked thirtieth of 35 passers in yards per go try (6.3). He has a titanium rod in his leg. He seemed restricted. He was restricted. So the offense was restricted.

In that very same class, enjoying for Miami, Fitzpatrick ranked seventh (7.7). Higher than Josh Allen. Higher than Tom Brady. Higher than Russell Wilson, Lamar Jackson, Baker Mayfield and Drew Brees. He would relatively throw downfield than examine right down to a again, so the offense is straight away extra dynamic. Terry McLaurin should be pumping his fist and lacing up his monitor footwear.

There could possibly be a component right here of, “Wait, Washington moved on from a soon-to-be-37-year-old quarterback so it might flip to an already-38-year-old?” It’s a official query. Smith and Fitzpatrick even have one thing of a shared historical past. Smith was the Heisman Trophy finalist taken with the primary choose within the 2005 draft out of Utah. Fitzpatrick was the Ivy League participant of the yr taken 249 picks later within the seventh spherical out of Harvard.

In between went a dozen different quarterbacks (together with Jason Campbell to Washington). Solely a kind of joins Smith and Fitzpatrick as nonetheless aspiring to play in 2021: Aaron Rodgers. It takes expertise and drive to maintain a profession alive this lengthy. Fitzpatrick has each, paired with an underdog edge. Of the 13 quarterbacks with extra passing yards than Fitzpatrick since his draft yr, solely two weren’t taken within the first spherical: Brees (the primary choose of the second spherical in 2001) and, after all, Brady (famously chosen 199th in 2000).

So welcome Fitzpatrick, as a result of his persona can be magnetic and he would possibly have the ability to get extra out of McLaurin, Washington’s greatest offensive weapon, and working again Antonio Gibson. Washington nonetheless wants to offer him extra choices, so the remainder of free company bears watching. However all the above is why this makes full sense for 2021 — and 2021 alone.

Now, to the extra essential level: Fitzpatrick’s signing merely kicks the can that comprises the franchise’s most essential query down the highway: What’s the long-term answer at quarterback?

In equity, that wasn’t going to come back in free company, not this yr. And after Washington failed in an try to land Matthew Stafford from Detroit, it wasn’t going to come back by commerce. Except Heinicke in some way bottled his 5 quarters of magic from late final season — bear in mind, he was an out-of-work math pupil in December — then the reply wasn’t coming internally, both. (Allen, to me, is a backup, no extra.)

So two years after Washington took a quarterback within the first spherical of the draft, it heads to the draft in want of a quarterback for 2022. There are different draft wants, too — broad receiver, cornerback, linebacker. However taking a kind of doesn’t handle the query that each defines and canines the franchise.

To be clear: Fitzpatrick’s presence doesn’t preclude Washington from taking a quarterback within the first spherical this yr. On the contrary: Fitzpatrick was the incumbent quarterback when Miami chosen Tua Tagovailoa with the fifth choose in final yr’s draft. When he was finally benched in favor of the rookie, Fitzpatrick completely walked the tightrope of expressing his ache however pledging his help to his successor. Even when he twice changed Tagovailoa in the midst of video games, he mentioned he understood the job to be the rookie’s and he would assist nevertheless he might. That’s a professional.

May an identical situation develop with Washington? If it does, it would require transferring up from the nineteenth choose within the first spherical. Don’t do this simply to take a quarterback. Do do this if the quarterback in consideration solves the issue in 2022 and past.

Why? As a result of the short-term options don’t stabilize something. Ought to Fitzpatrick begin a sport this season, he’ll be the twenty fourth quarterback to take action for Washington since 2000. Perhaps subsequent week we’ll have a quiz to call all two dozen. Greater than that, he’ll be the tenth quarterback to start out a sport right here since 2018. Assume it’s a coincidence that Washington’s complete variety of playoff victories on this century is one? Me neither.

It is a franchise with glory days tied to the three Tremendous Bowl titles within the Nineteen Eighties and ’90s. These titles, it’s value remembering, got here with three totally different beginning quarterbacks. The coaches have modified. Even the title has modified. However as we get able to study extra in regards to the new sign caller for 2021, it serves solely as a reminder that we don’t know who will man that place going ahead, and that’s eternally unsettling.

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