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Ryan Fitzpatrick Named Washington's Starting Quarterback

No. 14 QB Ryan Fitzpatrick
No. 14 QB Ryan Fitzpatrick

Head coach Ron Rivera has named 17-year veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick as its starting quarterback for the 2021 season.

Fitzpatrick, who the team signed in March, has started in 146 games and thrown for nearly 35,000 yards in his career, which is seventh-most among active quarterbacks. He's completed 60.7% of his passes with a passer rating of 82.3.

"A savvy veteran who has had a lot of success and who has worked with a lot of other quarterbacks, a lot of young quarterbacks, who's been in a lot of different systems," Rivera said in April. "Also, just the fact that when you look at his numbers analytically, he's actually improved in his play in the last couple years, too."

Fitzpatrick will lead an offense that is full of young talent. In addition to Terry McLaurin, who is fresh off his first 1,000-yard season, and Antonio Gibson -- one of the most efficient running backs in 2020, per Football Outsiders -- Fitzpatrick will also work with third-round pick Dyami Brown, versatile pass-catcher J.D. McKissic, fellow free agent signee Curtis Samuel and tight end Logan Thomas.

In fact, those players are part of the reason Fitzpatrick wanted to join Washington's squad in the first place.

"I think this team -- it's a young team," Fitzpatrick said. "Making the push last year and making the playoffs, I think there's a lot of excitement. I think everybody thinks it's headed in the right direction. I'm just happy to be here and be a part of it."

From the moment he stepped on the practice field at Inova Sports Performance Center for OTAs, Fitzpatrick has been praised for how he has handled himself and quickly adapted to Washington's scheme. Although Scott Turner’s system was new to him, he directed the offense and vertically expanded it by giving his receivers opportunities to make plays downfield.

"I think one of the best things is he's confident in his guys around him," McLaurin said. "He really does a good job of empowering us and also putting us in good situations to be successful. If there's a look up at the line that may not be good for the play that we're trying to run, he knows how to get us in the right play and get the receivers into the best route possible for that type of leverage and things like that."

Fitzpatrick's ability to build relationships with his teammates has proven to be as useful as his performance on the field. Players gravitate to him, Rivera said, and they assimilate to his style as well.

"He's an awesome guy," said fellow quarterback Taylor Heinicke. "When things are kind of going tough or if you have a kind of a bad day, he's kind of the guy to crack a joke and make you remember it's a football game. don't take it so seriously."

That extra effort translates to results on the field, which is ultimately what Rivera is hoping to see with Fitzpatrick under center.

"I think what it is is it's developing that trust and that rapport with the receivers, knowing that he's going to get to where he needs to be," Rivera said. "It is something that a veteran guy develops quickly and he learns to gauge a guy's speed. He learns to gauge a guy's ability to reach in terms of his length and that would help."

Washington is looking to become the first repeat winner of the NFC East since the Philadelphia Eagles in 2004. Rivera feels that Fitzpatrick's style and experience give the team its best shot to accomplish that.

"I think it's a group that's ascending," Fitzpatrick said of Washington. "I mean, everybody's heading in the right direction. I think there's some momentum coming off of last year. Just speaking about the offense, the offense is going to be dynamic. There's a lot of different guys, or it's not just going to be focused on one guy trying to force feed him the ball. There's a lot of different guys that can make plays."