CLEVELAND — Now it’s time to see what “angry Fitz” can do.
In a stunning turn of events, Ryan Fitzpatrick was given a clean slate and a new opportunity to prove that the Jets’ season — and his career — are not over. And he’s determined not to waste any more opportunities to win.
“My angry is still pretty controlled,” said the 12-year veteran, who was benched last week and then named the starting quarterback again when it was discovered on Monday that his replacement, Geno Smith, had torn a ligament in his right knee. “I think that has been a mentality that I’ve had my whole career in terms of what I feel about myself vs. plenty of doubters out there.”
Fitzpatrick has had success in the past against Cleveland: He’s 4-1 against the Browns and has completed 77 of 126 passes (61.1 percent) for 740 yards and eight touchdowns with four interceptions. But it’s his recent past that has Jets fans frightened.
The 33-year-old not only leads the NFL with 11 interceptions but completed only 57 percent of his passes during the initial six-game stretch in which the Jets went 1-5.
But in the face of his own struggles, Fitzpatrick shared his me-against-the-world mentality with the public. And that’s a personality trait that Jets offensive coordinator Chan Gailey is familiar with.
“I feel like every year he’s played with that, to be honest with you,” said Gailey, Fitzpatrick’s head coach in Buffalo from 2010-12. “He’s played with that ‘I’m not supposed to be here, nobody thinks I’m good enough’ kind of chip on his shoulder. That’s kind of the norm for me.”
Perhaps it’s because of their shared history that Gailey didn’t seem particularly worried about Fitzpatrick being able to limit his turnovers going forward.
“[I have] the same confidence level I had two weeks ago,” he said. “You make sure that you put him in situations that are good for him. That’s my job.”
According to Gailey, the Ravens’ “soft coverage” last week helped the Jets’ offense settle into a groove. The result was a 24-16 victory, the first win for the Jets (2-5) since Week 2. And in order to string wins together, they’ll need a strong rushing attack and Fitzpatrick and star receiver Brandon Marshall to be on point.
According to NFL.com, Fitzpatrick’s 46.9 passer rating when throwing to Marshall is second-to-last in league among receivers with more than 40 targets.
So what changed since last year?
“If I knew that, I would fix it,” Gailey said. “ . . . I can’t put my finger on it. It’s probably a combination of some different coverages, not having [injured Eric] Decker on the other side probably has something to do with it, not being able to run the ball as well as we did last year, it’s probably all of that kind of stuff combined together.
“Hopefully as time goes on, we get better at running the football, more consistent, some of these younger guys develop and it gets back to the way it was.”