Ryan Fitzpatrick, whose 16-year NFL tenure has seen plenty of peaks and valleys, enjoyed arguably his best season with the Jets in 2015, setting career-bests in both passing yards (3,905) and touchdowns (31). However, Fitzpatrick didn’t get to enjoy it for long, bottoming out with a harrowing 2016 campaign as the Jets regressed from 10-6 to last place in the AFC East at 5-11. After flourishing throwing to Eric Decker and Brandon Marshall the year prior, Fitzpatrick unraveled to the tune of 17 interceptions (six of them in a Week 3 loss to Kansas City) in 2016, prompting coach Todd Bowles to bench him for draft bust Geno Smith at one point.
Fitzpatrick, who calls his current situation with Washington the best of his career (WFT is coming off a rare division title), reflected on his fateful 2016 in a recent podcast interview with ESPN’s Pablo Torre (they overlapped two years at Harvard), describing the toll it took on him mentally. “For me, 2015 was such a great year. It was one of my most enjoyable. We made a great run at the end and all that,” said the 38-year-old, now playing for his ninth NFL team. “But the next year, for as great as ’15 was, ‘16 was that bad. It sucked the energy and life out of me.”
Fitzpatrick regards that season as his personal and professional low point, admitting he took some of his frustration home with him in 2016. “It was very tough for me because I’ve always done such a good job of separating football and home. I want my family to be able to enjoy the football part of it, but there’s some stuff that I also don’t really want or need them to be involved in or see, and that year there was just so much negative,” said Fitzpatrick, who ranks seventh among active players in career passing yards with 34,977. “And I was in such a bad place, that I couldn’t really hide that part from my family. I didn’t let it defeat me, but gosh it was close. It was definitely close.”
After burning out with the Jets, the cagey veteran wiped the slate clean by joining Tampa Bay the following season. Similar to Patriots defector Tom Brady, the father of seven enjoyed a career renaissance with the Bucs, rediscovering his passion for football after having his spirit crushed by his failures in the Big Apple. “Tampa Bay is an hour from Disney World because essentially the decision that I made was, ‘Let’s go to Florida and let’s enjoy our time there.’ And that was the reason I kept playing and found my love for football again.”
Remarkably, Fitzpatrick has never appeared in a playoff game and has only experienced two winning seasons in the NFL including last year with the Dolphins, when he finished 10-6 as the backup to first-round rookie Tua Tagovailoa.