This improbable season for the Jets has taken an unexpected turn. On Sunday, they will face their former quarterback, Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Fitzpatrick will start for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in place of Jameis Winston, who has been shut down for two weeks with an injury to his throwing shoulder, according to Bucs coach Dirk Koetter.
“It’s definitely going to be interesting,” Jets outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins said. “Coming across the locker room and seeing how he carries himself, he’s a pro. He works hard and it will be a good game.”
Jets starter Josh McCown, who replaced Fitzpatrick, also will be facing one of his former teams.
“That was a really rough year,” said McCown, who went 1-10 in 2014 with Tampa Bay. “So for me, it will be like it’s just another trip. I’ve kind of moved on past that, and obviously I’ve done that with different stops and different places in my career and I’ve had practice at it. It will just be another game. I’m looking forward to competing against them. I know some of those guys and I appreciate those guys and their friendship and the kind of men they are.”
Fitzpatrick set a franchise record with 31 touchdown passes in the 2015 season, but the Jets lost to the Bills in the regular-season finale, costing them a playoff berth. There was a belief that he would have a future with the team, but he had trouble working out a contract. He missed the entire offseason program and Geno Smith got the first-team reps in practices until just before training camp, when Fitzpatrick signed a one-year, $12-million deal.
Fitzpatrick and the Jets then finished 5-11 in a season in which he was benched twice and regained the starting job only because his replacements got injured.
After the season, general manager Mike Maccagnan released several veterans, including wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker and linebacker David Harris. He also elected not to re-sign Fitzpatrick. It wasn’t a surprise, considering how the year went.
Jets coach Todd Bowles said the last time he spoke with Fitzpatrick was at the end of last season. After the Jets elected not to re-sign him, everybody moved on, or at least that’s what the Jets said Monday afternoon when they were asked about Fitzpatrick’s start against them.
“Fitz was good when he was here and we’re going down to play the Buccaneers, not Fitzpatrick,” Bowles said. “We will prepare for a full week and try to get a win.”
“I think we’re mainly studying on the team as a whole, not focusing on Fitzpatrick or the fact he used to be here,” defensive end Leonard Williams said.
“We’re not trying to make it too much us against Fitzpatrick. We’re studying Tampa Bay regardless of who plays or not. We’re focusing on who is able to play.”
Now we know.
McCown vs. Fitzpatrick.
Sunday at Raymond James Stadium.
“He’s been on different teams, I’ve been on different teams,” Bowles said. “I played against some guys that I’ve coached against, and it’s a normal week for us.”
Notes & quotes: The NFL suspended Bucs receiver Mike Evans for Sunday’s game for violating unsportsmanlike conduct and unnecessary roughness rules. Evans will appeal, according to ESPN, and if he wins, he’ll play against the Jets. He was suspended because of a blind-side hit on Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore on Sunday. The hit led to a sideline scrap . . . In the aftermath of a video gone viral of Jets defenders dancing to music in the fourth quarter against the Bills, Bowles quipped: “Not one of them could have been a ‘Soul Train’ dancer.