This Sunday when the New York Jets travel to Tampa Bay, they will see a very familiar face standing over center in Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Former New York Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick will make his first start of the season for the Buccaneers, filling in for Jameis Winston who injured his shoulder and will be out for two weeks.
This isn’t the first time that Fitzpatrick has had to come off the bench for the franchise he found himself playing with. Incredibly, the Buccaneers are the seventh different team that he has made a start with. Everywhere he found himself, the starting quarterback that he came into backup suffered an injury.
In his rookie season with the Rams, Fitzpatrick started three games replacing Marc Bulger who sustained a shoulder injury. Fitzpatrick saw very little time as a backup in 2006 with the Rams and in 2007 with the Bengals appearing in just two games and making zero starts.
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Starting in 2008 with Cincinnati, Fitzpatrick started a current streak that borders on remarkable. Since then he has played at least half of his team’s games for nine straight seasons. Only seven other quarterbacks have done that.
In 2008, Fitzpatrick started 12 games for the Bengals because Carson Palmer went down with an elbow injury. In 2009 with Buffalo, Fitzpatrick started eight games replacing Trent Edwards who went down with a concussion. With the Titans in 2013, Fitzpatrick started nine games replacing Jake Locker who suffered a foot injury.
In 2014, Fitzpatrick was named the starter for the Houston Texans and started the first nine games before being replaced by Ryan Mallett. Mallet started for two weeks before suffering a pectoral injury that returned the starting position back to Fitzpatrick. However, after leading the Texans to wins against the Titans and Jaguars (which included a 6-TD pass game against Tennessee) Fitzpatrick was lost for the season with a broken tibia.
The craziness of injuries reached an entirely new level with Fitzpatrick in 2015 when he signed with the New York Jets. Originally coming in as a backup to Geno Smith, he was named the starter after Smith suffered a facial fracture after being punched by teammate Ik Enemkpali. With New York Fitzpatrick thrived, setting a team record for TD passes in the season with 31, but faltered in the Jets season finale at Buffalo throwing three fourth-quarter interceptions to cost them a playoff berth.
The loss to Buffalo to end the 2015 season seemed to have a psychological effect on Fitzpatrick who, after holding out in a contract dispute, was a shell of himself in 2016 with the New York Jets. After having his job taken from him a 3-6 start, Fitzpatrick was forced back into action after injuries to Geno Smith and Bryce Petty.
After contemplating retirement, Fitzpatrick signed with the Buccaneers figuring he would be nothing more than a mentor to one of the most talented young quarterbacks in the NFL. After all, Winston had not missed a start in his first two NFL seasons.
However, the NFL gods were not done with Fitzpatrick yet as he found himself behind center after Winston injured his shoulder in a loss to the Cardinals in Week 6. After returning to start the next two games, Winston re-injured the shoulder on Sunday against the Saints. Re-enter Fitzpatrick.
While the rest of the NFL world might be surprised by seeing Fitzpatrick back starting, no one who has paid attention to the fate of quarterbacks standing in front of him in his career should be.