FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Given three days to reconsider the wisdom of airing his grievances after returning to the lineup, Ryan Fitzpatrick remained defiant about his postgame comments that neither Woody Johnson nor Mike Maccagnan nor Todd Bowles believes in him.
“No, not at all,” Fitzpatrick said after Wednesday’s practice in his first remarks since torching the Jets’ power brokers following Sunday’s 24-16 win over the Ravens. “The underlying message there really is that I believe in myself.”
All right then.
Fitzpatrick came off as a whiner after he came off the bench because of Geno Smith’s injury. “When the owner stops believing in you and the GM stops believing in your and coaches stop believing in you, sometimes all you have is yourself.”
The comments stemmed from Fitzpatrick’s well-deserved benching after throwing an NFL-worst 11 interceptions during the Jets’ 1-5 start. Fitzpatrick was hurt and understandably frustrated over being yanked out of the lineup. But this rant was laced with self-pity, a startling contrast to his cool demeanor since he became the Jets’ starter in August 2015, when Smith suffered a broken jaw in a locker room fight.
Yet with a chance to cool off after a few days, Fitzpatrick is sticking to his story. It’s him against the world, and that’s how it’s going to be moving forward.
“You don’t make it as long as I have in the league and playing on as many teams as I’ve been (on) in the league, having to pick myself up over and over again without believing in yourself,” Fitzpatrick said.
He’s right about that. Fitzpatrick is on his sixth team in 12 NFL seasons, a testament to his resiliency. But that also reflects his limitations, the biggest reason why he invariably winds up as the last one believing in himself. If he were truly a franchise quarterback, he’d have lasted more than four years in one place, not bounced around from St. Louis to Cincinnati to Buffalo to Tennessee to Houston to the Jets.
These almost certainly are his final days in New York, barring a remarkable turnaround and an unlikely playoff run. The Jets weren’t willing to budge from their negotiating position throughout the offseason, and Fitzpatrick took a one-year, $12- million deal that was better — far better — than any other team was offering. He bet on himself, then lost the bet with five ineffective performances in six games before Bowles sat him.
It is fitting in Fitzpatrick’s career of interesting, sometimes inexplicable twists and turns that he is back as the starter, with a chance to redeem himself as the Jets’ schedule softens considerably. It’s at Cleveland on Sunday, then at the Dolphins and home to the Rams — three winnable games before the bye, and a legitimate chance at going into Patriots week at 5-5.
That still leaves little to no margin for error to even think about making the playoffs, which certainly would salvage something from a poor start.
“I think the biggest thing is we need to win games,” he said. “I was disappointed I got benched, but I was disappointed in the way I played, too. There are a lot of things I’m continuing to work on, but I continue to keep the faith in myself.”
The best way to cure his problems?
“I think the biggest things are just generating more points, getting off to better starts,” he said. “When you start slow and you fall behind, some of the turnovers follow that. Scoring more points early will help in that department.”
Despite Fitzpatrick’s “woe is me’’ affectations Sunday, Bowles will continue to give him the ball as long as the Jets are in the playoff hunt. The time hasn’t come to see if Bryce Petty or Christian Hackenberg is a viable alternative moving forward.
“We’re not at that point,” Bowles said. “We’re not even close to that point.”
So there’s still time for Fitzpatrick to redeem himself. Even if he’s the only one around here who believes it’s possible.