FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — His eyes still glassy and red with fatigue, Ryan Fitzpatrick made it clear that his self-confidence hasn’t wavered. Less than 24 hours after throwing six interceptions in a monumental meltdown in Kansas City, he insisted he’s still the leader the Jets need.
“I feel like I’m the right guy to right the ship,” Fitzpatrick said during a quiet moment in a near-empty locker room Monday afternoon. “I’m the right guy that’s going to be able to turn it around.”
Ten minutes earlier, he stood before the cameras and took responsibility for his embarrassing performance in Sunday’s 24-3 loss to the Chiefs. And facing his teammates in the aftermath of a humiliating defeat was most difficult, he said.
“We lost that game because of my performance,” Fitzpatrick said. “I think that was pretty evident. To walk in today and have to face the guys, it’s not an easy thing to do. But at the same time, I’ve got to be the same guy every day as a leader, as a player, and just come in.”
Well after the crowd had dispersed, Fitzpatrick stressed that time is of the essence. Not just for him, but for veteran teammates, too.
“At least for Brandon [Marshall] and I, and [Darrelle] Revis, Nick [Mangold] and different guys, the clock is ticking,” the 33-year-old told Newsday. “We’re not going to be able to play the game forever. So, in that regard, just seeing the opportunity that we have right now, seeing the team that we have and just knowing that the time is now.
“I’m trying to do everything I can to take advantage of this opportunity.”
Todd Bowles’ message to players was direct and stressed the importance of accountability. But the coach refused to shed any more light on what was said behind closed doors.
“Any time you lose like that, you have to have a ‘Come to Jesus’ meeting,” he said.
Fitzpatrick has had several side conversations with teammates since the game ended, but “it has nothing to do with me critiquing anybody or them critiquing me,” he said. “It just has to do with the goal of where we want to be and how we’re going to get there. And kind of the things that either have to change or the consistency that we have to see in each other every day.”
After the game, Marshall said the next week will speak volumes about the Jets’ ability to handle adversity. A day later, Fitzpatrick agreed.
“This isn’t all doom and gloom,” Fitzpatrick said. “Last week, everybody was talking about how we’re the greatest show on turf, basically, after one game. The message last week that I tried to deliver was, basically, you’re only as good as your next game.”
And therein lies the problem: consistency. But after 12 seasons in the NFL, Fitzpatrick no longer doubts his ability.
As a rookie for the St. Louis Rams, he threw five interceptions and no touchdowns in a 27-13 loss in Minnesota on Dec. 11, 2005. Back then, he was just “a snot-nosed kid” playing with Torry Holt, Steven Jackson and future Hall of Famers Marshall Faulk and Orlando Pace.
“I walked into the Rams’ locker room that day like, I still didn’t know if I belonged in the league or if I was going to have more than a one-year career,” Fitzpatrick said. “But today, I feel deeply as awful that I let the team down, but I also feel like I belong here.”