Now that Harvard man Ryan Fitzpatrick is the starting quarterback of the New York Jets, we ask ourselves who he reminds us of.
By Robby Sabo
Admittedly it’s a lazy comparison. Many have already mentioned it, especially at the exact hour Geno Smith was socked in the jawbone.
The Big Tuna knew exactly what he was doing when he left New England following a 1996 campaign that saw him take Drew Bledsoe and the Patriots to their second ever Super Bowl. He knew, because management was squeezing personnel duties from his job description, that taking over football operations for Leon Hess’s New York Jets was going to be done his way.
After a successful and surprising 9-7 season in 1997 (improving eight games from Rick Kotite’s 1996 season), Parcells was on the cusp of a contender in just 18-months time.
The only thing he needed was a quarterback.
Enter Vinny Testaverde. A disappointment among NFL circles to the upteenth degree. A first overall pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 1987 out of Miami University who, in universal agreement, was a complete and utter bust of a player.
He was the man with the golden arm and the two-cent head.
Thanks to then starter Glen Foley failures and injuries, Vinny was granted new life with the Jets in 1998. All he did was throw for 3,256 yards with 29 touchdowns and just seven interceptions in 13 games started. An NFL Pro-Bowler and a leader of a team who came a half away in Denver from meeting the Atlanta Falcons in the Super Bowl.
The two quarterbacks couldn’t be less similar in skill-set. Testaverde possesses one of the best arms in NFL history. Fitzpatrick gets by with accuracy and smarter decision making (though that can be argued).
Testaverde is a giant of a man at 6-5 and 235 lbs. while Fitz comes across as more of an industry standard at 6-2 and 221 lbs.
Testaverde attended Miami University, the place for which parties and pumping NWA music never die. The Amish Rifle is a Harvard man, far from fever-pitched attitude of The U.
Still, each time and place, and situation, brings up interesting points to hit on. Could Fitzpatrick be entering a Jets situation in the same exact fashion as Testaverde did 17-years ago?
Here are some similarities:
When Testaverde came over to the Jets, Parcells was on his second year of an immense rebuilding process. He was 35-years old. How Parcells connected with Vinny so well and transformed the turnover machine into such a solid manager we still don’t know.
Fitzpatrick is currrently 32-years old coming to a brand spanking new regime with Mike Maccagnan and Todd Bowles.
Both Are Turnover Machines
Testaverde threw an obscene 267 interceptions in 214 games started in the NFL. Fitzpatrick is currently stuck on the number of 101 in 89 career game started.
There’s a reason both quarterbacks have been journeymen their entire careers.
At the same time, both guys have flashed times of brilliance.
Take Testaverde’s 1996 season for example. With the Baltimore Ravens (after his forgettable stops in Tampa and Cleveland) Vinny experienced his best NFL season. He went for over 4,000 yards chucking 33 touchdowns and 19 picks.
Fitzpatrick, playing for Chan Gailey in Buffalo, threw for over 3,000 yards and 20 touchdowns in three straight seasons (2010-12). Playing under Bill O’Brien in Houston a season ago, Fitz put up a sparkling TD-INT ratio of 17-8 in 12 games prior to going down with injury.
Both turnover machines do show promise from time to time, if in the right position. And both have flashed that brilliance just prior to coming to New York.
Both Jets Teams On The Uptick
Even with the circus-like news surrounding Geno Smith and IK Enemkpali, very few insiders would argue that the Jets are still stuck in their same old ways.
They’ve witnessed what’s gone on since the hiring of Maccagnan and Bowles. They’ve seen the accepting of such a gift in the 2015 NFL Draft – Leonard Williams – instead of passing him up and making an excuse of positional need (like Jets teams of the past would’ve done).
They see Maccagnan going out and getting the job done in the free agent/trade market (Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie, Buster Skrine, Brandon Marshall).
They also see the cool, calm and patient demeanor of Bowles.
Let’s get one thing straight right now: It takes time for a new regime to come in and fully put their imprints on an organization. If you think for one moment incidents such as Sheldon Richardson proving he’s a maniac and Geno showing the world he’s not a leader falls on the shoulder of the new regime, you’re completely misguided.
They’ve inherited these players/personalities from the wonderful work of John Idzik.
It takes time to turn that over and implement new principles.
Just as Parcells did in 1997, Bowles and Maccagnan are in the midst of right now. Both Testaverde and Fitzpatrick have entered the starting role at the right time.
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