Ryan Fitzpatrick stood behind the lectern wearing a gray T-shirt, shorts, a pair of socks and a scowl.
In the aftermath of the Jets’ first win in more than a month, the 12-year veteran spoke less about the team’s resilience in the face of a four-game losing streak than about his own feelings of abandonment.
“When the owner stops believing in you and the general manager stops believing in you and the coaches stop believing in you, sometimes all you have is yourself,” Fitzpatrick said Sunday after being called upon to replace an injured Geno Smith in the early stages of a 24-16 win over the Ravens.
After spending the past 14 months as Fitzpatrick’s backup, Smith officially was given the reins of the offense Wednesday. It was a last-ditch effort by an organization that had grown tired of Fitzpatrick’s turnover-prone ways. But Smith’s first start in nearly two years lasted less than a half. He injured his right knee on a sack by Ravens linebacker Matt Judon with about eight minutes left in the second quarter.
Powered by Matt Forte’s two touchdowns and their best defensive performance of the season — which included an interception apiece by Buster Skrine and Marcus Gilchrist, a dominant game by Sheldon Richardson (eight tackles and a sack) and 6 rushing yards allowed — the Jets (2-5) got the win they so desperately needed.
“About damn time,” safety Calvin Pryor said, smiling.
But nothing is ever easy with the Jets. After moving on from Fitzpatrick and his NFL-leading 11 interceptions, the Jets must wait for the results of further tests on Smith’s knee. Todd Bowles wasn’t sure who will be under center Sunday in Cleveland.
“It’s too early to tell right now,” he said when asked if he’ll start Smith — if he’s healthy — against the Browns (0-7).
Fitzpatrick led three scoring drives and completed 9 of 14 passes for 120 yards with one touchdown and three sacks. “I’ve probably played better as an underdog [ticked] off,” he said.
Though he acknowledged his poor play last week against Arizona, he used his time behind the lectern to express his frustration with the front office.
“It’s an awkward situation, a situation I don’t like being in,” Fitzpatrick said of no longer being the starter. “I told Geno and I told a couple of guys, ‘I’m going to need a couple of days for this one just to let it sink in.’ There are strong emotions there for me, especially not knowing if that was the last time I was going to be out there as a starter or not.”
Before his quick exit, Smith threw a 69-yard catch-and-run touchdown to Quincy Enunwa to cut the Ravens’ lead to 10-7 in the first quarter.
“It’s frustrating getting injured no matter what point of the game it is. The key thing is we won today,” said Smith, who completed 4 of 8 passes for 95 yards with the touchdown and two sacks. “I’ll be fine either way. The main thing is that we continue building on this success that we had today.”
Asked for an assessment of Smith in limited action, Bowles said: “I thought he was doing all right. He was moving the ball a little bit. We hadn’t opened the offense yet, but he was poised. He was fine.”
Enunwa’s score was Smith’s first touchdown pass since Week 8 last season, when Fitzpatrick injured his left thumb in the first quarter at Oakland and Smith replaced him. Now it’s unclear which quarterback will get the call.
“I don’t know what decision they are going to make or what Geno’s health is going to be like, but I think I should start every week,” Fitzpatrick said, adding, “I feel for him.”
He also made it clear that even if the front office and coaches have given up on him, he has the support of the locker room.
Said Fitzpatrick: “Their opinion of me, that’s kind of what drives me and what matters and so I know I still have that belief in the huddle, so that’s important to me.”
Mangold hurt. Jets center Nick Mangold left the game with an ankle injury and will undergo more tests, Bowles said . . . The injury-depleted Ravens (3-4) have lost four in a row.