Ryan Fitzpatrick recalled chatting with his father the other day and remarking how in Year 17, this was the most in-demand he’d ever been for free agency. The 38-year-old gunslinger said there were “more than three” teams that pursued him.
But Fitzpatrick ultimately honed in on Washington and the one-year, $10 million deal that became official Thursday. The two key reasons? Coach Ron Rivera is giving him a chance to start, and Fitzpatrick likes the direction the franchise is headed.
After spending the last two years with the Miami Dolphins, Washington becomes Fitzpatrick’s ninth team — meaning he, his wife and their seven kids can now each wear a different jersey from all of his NFL stops. Fitzpatrick, though, has gladly embraced the journeyman style, coming to terms with consistently having to move.
Speaking to reporters in an online introductory press conference, Fitzpatrick said he’s come to love the process — and challenge — of starting over at each stop.
“It’s me, that’s part of my story,” he said. “Part of my story is skipping around to different teams and just trying to instill belief and trying to just show that passion to these guys. … I kind of get to reinvent myself every year on a new team, and I have to prove myself again, I have to earn the respect of the guys.
“Those are the things that get me really excited about this game.”
For Fitzpatrick, part of that journey always felt natural. He was under-recruited in high school and then a seventh-round pick in the NFL. But Fitzpatrick said he finally started to feel comfortable with being an arm-for-hire when his four-year stint with the Buffalo Bills ended in 2012.
That was now six teams ago.
There’s excitement, yes, but Fitzpatrick admits there’s also a stress that comes with learning new faces and new names. Thursday’s introduction to Washington was no exception. He met Rivera face-to-face for the first time. And he chatted with members of Washington’s staff, mostly all new to him except for quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese (the two overlapped in Cincinnati).
He even joked about the security guard at the gate of the facility — poking fun at his ridiculously bushy beard in the process.
“Is the guard going to recognize me? Is he not?” Fitzpatrick quipped. “Is he gonna think I’m Conor McGregor? Is he going to think I’m one of the Duck Dynasty guys? Is he going to let me in?”
Fitzpatrick’s sense of humor has helped with a career of adjustments and accommodation.
On Thursday alone, he quipped his kids were teaching him about Washington’s roster through EA Sports’ Madden video game. He said he texted Philip Rivers after the birth of Rivers’ ninth child, he texted him, I’m never going to catch you if you keep having them.” And he even took a swipe at well-known NFL reporter John Clayton, who wrongly said Fitzpatrick was leaning toward retirement.
Fitzpatrick made sure to clarify that he didn’t put much emphasis on stepping away this offseason.
At 38, Fitzpatrick said he feels like he’s playing the best football of his career — and his statistics in Miami back it up. His 95.6 quarterback rating in 2020 was the second-best of his career, behind only 2018’s 100.4.
In Washington, Fitzpatrick will be tasked with helping a 32nd-ranked offense and getting the franchise back to the postseason — the latter of which Fitzpatrick has never done. He’ll have speed on the outside in star Terry McLaurin and new wideout Curtis Samuel.
Well aware of the gunslinger reputation that he’ll bring to the team, Fitzpatrick leaned in.
“I’m going to give my guys chances,” he said. “I am not a guy that is going to sit there and be afraid to throw the ball down the field. I’m going to try and make the right plays, but if I’ve got a chance and I believe in my guy one-on-one, I’m going to give him a chance.
“And I think guys like playing with me because of that.”
Fitzpatrick said he wasn’t given any assurances that he’ll be the starter come Week 1. But he was told he’d be given the chance, which he said was more than enough. Kyle Allen, Taylor Heinicke and Steven Montez are the other quarterbacks on Washington’s roster.
Fitzpatrick said he has the “ultimate belief” in himself. Consistently changing teams hasn’t damaged that confidence.
And for the record, Fitzpatrick said he’s learned not to hold any ill will toward the teams who viewed him just as a stopgap.
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