Not so long ago Ryan Fitzpatrick was a name championed by Bills fans around the recently renamed Ralph Wilson Stadium. On Thursday though, when Fitzpatrick takes the field repping the green and white of the New York Jets, he’s the enemy of a Bills team desperate for a victory.
As much as Week 2 can be a “must win” situation for any team, that’s what it feels like for Buffalo, and lucky for them they have history on their side, even if Rex Ryan doesn’t want to admit it.
“I respect what he’s done,” Ryan remarked earlier this week in regards to Fitzpatrick. “Last time we made a big stink about, ‘Hey you’ve really done well against somebody,’ the guy (Tom Brady) lit me up for 600 yards out there. So I’m not saying anything about it. I think, obviously, the players have more to do with it than anything else and we’ve played well against him but the guy’s an ultra-competitor.”
In his seven years as a head coach in the national football league, Ryan has, simply put, owned Fitzpatrick, going back to those memorable days when the journeyman quarterback was a Buffalo Bill.
Now technically the duo’s first meeting came when Ryan was still with the Baltimore Ravens as their assistant head coach/defensive coordinator. The year was 2008. Fitzpatrick was with the Bengals at the time and thrust into the starting quarterback after Carson Palmer was shut down for the season with an elbow injury. Hist first every meeting against Ryan’s daunted defensive scheme didn’t go so well. Fitzpatrick finished the day 12-for-31 passing and 124 yards as the Ravens cruised to a 34-3 victory.
Fast forward a year and Ryan is now the Jets head coach, while Fitzpatrick was just beggining his five-year stint with the Bills. In the sixth game of the season Fitzpatrick steps in at quarterback for an injured Trent Edwards and orchestrates a 16-13 win over New York. Later that year in his first start against Rex Ryan the head coach, the then 27-year-old QB is handed a 19-13 loss.
Over the next three seasons Fitzpatrick takes four straight losses to Ryan’s Jets before finally getting the better of him in a meaningless Week 17 win (28-9) in 2012 – his final year in Western New York.
That very next season – now a member of the Tennessee Titans – lo-and-behold in their fourth game Fitzpatrick enters for an injured Jake Locker, completes just three passes, one of which goes for six, earning his most recent win over Buddy Ryan’s son, 38-13.
Throw in last year’s identical 22-17 losses to Ryan’s Bills and Fitzpatrick carries a 3-8 record against the coach all-time and an even more appalling 1-8 record in games he’s started.
Dig even deeper into the stats and you find that in seven of those nine starts the now 33-year-old QB has been held under 200 yards passing. He’s also never eclipsed the 300 yard mark in any of those matchups and enters Thursday with a miserable 46.3 completion percentage lifetime against defenses under Ryan’s tutelage.
Talk about having someone’s number.
“Well I think first, he’s a really good defensive football coach, and has had some really good defenses” Fitzpatrick explained, trying to save some face. “I would like to think that I’ve grown as a player and a quarterback. That being said, I didn’t perform very well in either game last year.
He’s right. He had a completion percentage under 45 in both contests against Buffalo in 2015 and finished having tossed more interceptions (5) than touchdowns (4).
“I’ve just gotta continue to try and figure it out,” Fitzpatrick added. “I know I’ve had success, I just haven’t had it consistently versus him, so hopefully I’m looking to start a new streak on Thursday.”
We’ll see, but the numbers lean heavily toward Rex Ryan’s team and as the second-year coach looks to avoid falling into an 0-2 hole for the first time in his career, there’s no denying he hopes the that trend stays exactly the same.
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