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Ryan Fitzpatrick in 2014: GGN Chalkboard, Part One

After Geno was punched, Ryan Fitzpatrick won the QB battle by default. 2014 saw him play in 12 games, so there is some things we can look at to see what to expect from this year.

Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Ryan Fitzpatrick is now presumed to be a day one starter unless the Jets pull off a huge trade. Fitz is 32 years old, a career 60 percent passer and sports a 1.2-1 TD/INT ratio for his career. By the numbers, he's a solid backup/ mediocre starter. David Wyatt summed it up perfectly when we traded for him in March and why it was a good idea then:

He has a familiarity with Chan Gailey and his offense and he will have every chance to be a success with the likes of Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker as his receivers. This in my opinion is a positive move for the Jets. Fitzpatrick isn't a franchise guy, but he throws more touchdowns than he does interceptions and can move the ball through the air.

I've bolded the text I think speaks volumes now that Geno is out for part of the season. Just because you are familiar with someone's offense doesn't mean that you will succeed with that person. (Kellen Clemens and Schotty may have known each other, but STL offense still stunk for example.) That being said Clemens wasn't a starting caliber QB, while Fitz at one time or another, has been that guy for a few teams now.

Looking over the stats, Fitzpatrick was a pretty decent/good starter for the Texans in 2014. As much as stats don't tell you a complete story, there's something to be said about a guy who went out and had a 17-8 TD/INT ratio in 12 games. Let's take a look at some game film to see what he did in his games and judge for ourselves. Time to see the good, the bad, and the Vlad Ducasse that was Fitzpatrick's 2014 season.


Note: NFL Game Pass didn't have the preseason Texans all 22 feed, but I felt like showing this just because it is Bowles's defense and we are about to enter our preseason.

Fitz tried to engineer something with minimal time remaining in the first half deep AZ territory in a preseason game. This is about as ugly as you can get, so brace yourself.

It's a 5 man pattern and the Cards rush 6. Fitz identifies a WR open over the middle of the field running a basic in route.
Fitz Int Cards

Two things: One the WR gets wide open, but someone (probably Fitz) made a big mistake. The WR stops his route or at least slows down in the middle of the field where there is an obvious hole in the defense. Fitz pulls a Mark Sanchez and leads the WR with the pass rather than throw to the spot where the WR could stop, catch and release up the field.
fitz pick 2
Lurking is a linebacker who is more shocked than anything when the ball is thrown directly to him. It ends the drive, the half, and the Texans from getting any points.
Fitz ugly

I get it was a preseason game but that's a terrible, terrible pass. File that under the Vlad Ducasse section if you will. However, it does bring up a point, that we should use going forward. Fitz had a pretty decent season with the Texans, so if he struggles getting used to his targets for the first few games in preseason let's not go crazy.


Week one (the one that actually counts) saw the Texans face off against Washington.

This is an interesting play mostly because of the QB. Fitz had about 3 opportunities to throw for a pass and all would have been solid yardage. Instead he waits and checks off two wide open WR's. For a few milliseconds, I was shocked at the indecisiveness when he had 2 guys open or becoming open and held onto the ball.

Let's set it up it's late second quarter and the Texans just got the ball back after Washington put up a TD. It's second and six in their own territory so they're a lot of options here if you wanted to be aggressive or conservative.

The play call is somewhat aggressive, with a few deep routes with an underneath route set up by a play action sweep to the bottom. t's a post route from the slot and a fake post-out route on the outside.The top two WR run a pattern that is interesting because of how poorly it gets defended.

Fitz good

The defense is discombobulated off the sweep. It's a cover two defense although the bottom safety bites hard on the fake and scrambles back into position trying to get to the post route. Fitz is keying off the safety or so it seems here, but look below and tell me what I'm missing. I'm no NFL QB, but the middle of the field looks wide open for Hopkins during this frame. Instead Fitz is locked on to the outside WR.

Fitz TD defense

Obviously that's one of the first things I noticed when watching this play, was how wide open Hopkins was across the middle of the field early in the routes and how Fitz doesn't pay him any attention at first. Instead Fitz locks on to the outside, and truth be told, he had a pretty nice window at the sideline if he wanted to take a shot and make a good but not necessarily spectacular pass. Below is his eye line and the safety whose moving away.

Fitz doing work

Here's where it gets fun:  He checks off the route that he's been locked into. At the exact second the deep safety panics and goes after the out route. Look at how open that out route would have been, even with the safety moving over. Perhaps he knew something I didn't. Look below and tell me who is wide open?

Fitz gets his man

He throws a rather weak pass to the WR cutting across the field. Above, Fitz is throwing the ball almost on his back foot with no one around him. The pass itself made me think that he had little arm strength or very poor mechanics or something because he had all day to throw. Fitz unloaded a Pennington-eque deep ball that Hopkins snags backpedaling about 10 yards from the above frame. It was a wide open toss but did give the safety at leas the chance to make a tackle.

Watching this play made me frustrated, because Fitzpatrick had ample time, wide open WRs but locked on to one guy and then right before he gets wide open, switches off of him. Somehow he made a decent enough pass, because the end result was a TD. Even a 76 yard pass like this can be maddening because you see things that could have been much simpler and resulted in the same TD. Below is the gif of the pass.


This is an example of a great read and a QB doing his job without any flash or theatrics. 3rd Quarter Texans are up 17-0 against the Raiders. Fitz sees one on one up top with Hopkins and sees an opportunity. Fitz doesn't even bother with the other WR because he sees the man and knows where to go.

Fitz second TD

He throws a perfect back shoulder pass and Hopkins easily catches it for a TD. I know it's grainy, but the defender is on the inside and the pass is absolutely spot on the outside shoulder as shown below.

Fitz TD perfect

This is a perfect pass and as simple as this looks here is how it looked watching it on NFL Game Pass.


We've seen ugly, cromulent (aka I still am befuddled by the 70 yard TD pass), and great QB play. This however falls on the ugly/bad side of things. The Giants had a field day against the Texans, picking off Fitz 3 times although he did have a good moment. At this point of the game, he had already been intercepted once  (tipped ball), and the Texans were down 7-0.  Deep in his own territory, he made a very costly mistake.

Here's the play set up: 

Fitz INT route

Fitz goes through his progression and sees Johnson. I'm not sure what route this was supposed to be or why this ball gets thrown. Johnson gets to the pivot point and sees the ball. Judging in the split seconds before he sees the ball and adjusts, it looks like he's running a post pattern. Evidently, Fitz thought differently.

Fitz bad INT

On defense, the Giants disguised a cover two. The two safeties don't get too much upfield because the routes are shorter. Below you see the pass he attempts and where it ends up.

Fitz ball

Let's talk about said pass. For one it's another back foot pass that he did have some room to step into. Second, the WR wasn't that open as you see above. Third, because he threw it with such low speed, even the safety had a shot at it. Johnson was not expecting the pass either judging by the way he reacts after making his pivot. This is a very, very poor job of being a NFL QB.

Below you see the defense converging on the ball.

Fitz near Pick 6

The result of the play was a near pick 6. The ball ended up on the 3. A terrible, terrible pass was the cause. This is by far the bad side of Fitzpatrick, he threw a pass that in the best case scenario would have announcer saying that could have been a pick 6. Simply put, stuff like this costs you games.


Let's end today on a positive note: same game, different result. Here the Texans line up with 3 WR, and a two man backfield (with either a TE or WR as a FB.) It's another play action pass and doesn't really get any safety to bite unlike the last one.

Fitz Good routes

The Giants play cover one. The safety is stuck in no man's land and really is put between a rock and a hard place seeing where he should help. That becomes key because he needs to choose one.

Fitz TD Giant D

The safety in red tries to cover two man and read the QB's eyes. He doesn't move much in this play and seems to favor the post route as a first priority. Below you can see his eyes still on the post as the bottom WR is pretty well covered. The problem lies with how the slot CB allows his man to run up the field. The slot WR gets inside position and burns him pretty badly. Fitz at this point is still on Johnson, but eventually gives up that pattern.

safety decision

If the bottom goes deep over the middle, there's issues from the safety perspective. The slot has also gained a bit of separation so the safety is keeping an eye on that and trying to keep in position to move to the bottom WR if he goes long. We already know that the bottom WR was going across rather than deep but the safety had to be wary. Eventually he tracks the QB's eyes and shifts his attention at exactly the wrong moment pictured below.

Fitz td 3

When he does shift attention the slot WR blows by the CB. Fitz checks off at this moment and now sees a WR getting separation with the safety out of position. It's not an easy pass, requiring a bit of touch but one you do see on Sundays.

a bit of touch
The safety swung around hard, but was caught out of position. Fitzpatrick throws a pretty nice deep spiral here to make the completion. It's not more bullet than lob, but it is perfectly placed over the safeties head and the slot corner can only watch as the WR strolls into the end zone. The pass, watching it over again, was almost perfect in nature.

That wraps up this edition, but I will have more on the way soon recapping the other portions of Fitzpatrick's season so look for that in the coming days.

I hope that this allows you to understand Fitz a bit more and what we may see this upcoming season if he does indeed start.