Head coach Ron Rivera said in his press conference March 10 that the Washington Football Team was continuing to "explore all of the options" at quarterback. Nine days later, the team seems to have found its answer by announcing the signing of veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Here are five things to know about the 38-year-old signal-caller:
1. Washington will be his ninth NFL team.
One thing that can be said about Fitzpatrick with certainty is that he has been around the NFL more than most players. He is actually the only quarterback in league history to throw a touchdown with eight different teams, and now Washington will be the ninth.
Fitzpatrick was the last quarterback taken in the 2005 NFL Draft when the St. Louis Rams selected him with the 250th overall pick. He received a small handful of starts in his rookie season and threw for 777 yards, but he only appeared in one game the following year and was traded to the Cincinnati Bengals for a seventh-round pick prior to the 2007 season.
Fitzpatrick had an equally brief stint with the Bengals, although he had more success in 2008 with 12 starts and 1,905 passing yards before signing with the Buffalo Bills. It was there that he had some of his best statistical seasons with three consecutive 3,000-yard seasons and 53 starts. The Bills failed to reach the playoffs in the four years Fitzpatrick was there, but he threw for more than 11,000 yards and 88 touchdowns.
One-year stops with the Tennessee Titans and Houston Texans eventually led Fitzpatrick to the New York Jets, where his 2015 stats were by far the best of his career. He led the Jets to their first winning record (10-6) since 2010 and threw for 3,905 yards and a career-high 31 touchdowns to just 15 interceptions. The Jets went through several quarterback changes the following season, but Fitzpatrick managed to start in 11 games.
For the past four seasons, Fitzpatrick has spent his time with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Miami Dolphins appearing in relief for younger players like Jameis Winston and Tua Tagovailoa. During the 2019 campaign -- his last as a consistent starter -- he threw for 3,529 yards with a completion rate of 62.0%.
2. His NFL debut exemplified his entire career.
Fitzpatrick has established a reputation as a player who can enter a game when his team needs an offensive spark. That aggressive style dates all the way back to his NFL debut when he replaced an injured Jamie Martin in the Rams' Week 12 game against the Texans.
The Rams entered halftime trailing, 24-3, as quarterback David Carr had carved up their defense with three touchdowns and led the Texans' offense to 232 total yards compared to the Rams' 102.
Then Fitzpatrick entered the game. His debut did not start off well with an interception on the Rams' first drive of the second half, but after Texans kicker Kris Brown missed a field goal attempt, the rookie got to work by leading the Rams to five scoring drives. He hit wide receiver Torry Holt on a 19-yard pass for his first-career touchdown and then completed a 43-yarder to Isaac Bruce with 26 seconds left in the fourth quarter. Holt then recovered an onside kick, which allowed Fitzpatrick to set the Rams up for a game-tying 47-yard field goal.
In overtime, Fitzpatrick completed a screen pass to Kevin Curtis, who went on a 56-yard romp to the end zone.
By the end of the Rams' 33-27 victory, Fitzpatrick had thrown for 310 yards, making him just the eighth quarterback to surpass the 300-yard mark in their NFL debut. To this day, it remains one of the best performances of his career. Fitzpatrick has been known for years as "Fitzmagic," but he has been delivering memorable moments since Day 1.
3. No. 1 wide receivers thrive with him under center.
Fitzpatrick has worked with his fair share of high-end receivers, and after looking at some of their statistics, it's clear they greatly benefited from having him under center.
Fitzpatrick has started at least 10 games in eight seasons, and in those years, No. 1 wideouts had plenty of passes thrown their way. In fact, five players saw 125-plus targets in at least one season with Fitzpatrick, the first of which being the Begnals' T.J. Houshmandzadeh, who racked up 92 receptions on 137 targets for 904 yards and four touchdowns in 2008.
Perhaps the player who benefited the most from Fitzpatrick was Bills receiver Stevie Johnson. The former seventh-round pick had the best stretch of his career with three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons and 423 targets in that span. Johnson still had more than 100 targets once Fitzpatrick left, but his numbers dipped to 597 yards and three touchdowns in 2013.
Now that Fitzpatrick is in Washington, the expectation is that he will have a similar positive effect on third-year pro Terry McLaurin. McLaurin is coming off a career-year with 87 receptions on 134 targets and 1,118 yards despite catching passes from four quarterbacks. Having an experienced player like Fitzpatrick potentially leading Washington's offense would only elevate McLaurin as he continues to improve.
4. He's currently in the best stretch of his career.
Players hit their peaks at different times, although normally that time usually comes in their late 20s to early 30s. That is not the case with Fitzpatrick, though, as the 38-year-old's three best Pro Football Focus overall grades have come since 2018.
Fitzpatrick went 11-16 as a starter in that span, but he had several impressive performances. He started the 2018 season with a 48-40 win over the New Orleans Saints with an eye-popping 417 yards and four touchdowns. The Buccaneers needed those kinds of numbers, too, as Drew Brees nearly led the Saints to a comeback in the fourth quarter.
"He played phenomenal, so I hope people had him on their fantasy teams, because he went crazy today," receiver Mike Evans said after the game. "And he ran and made plays with his legs and his arm. Awesome game from him, one of the most complete games I've seen from a quarterback."
In 2019, Fitzpatrick delivered one close win after the other with the Dolphins. One week after securing the team's first win of the season over the Jets, Miami barely survived a matchup with the Indianapolis Colts with a 16-12 win. That was followed up by a 37-31 win over the Philadelphia Eagles, a 38-35 victory against the Bengals and a 27-24 upset over the New England Patriots.
Fitzpatrick split time with Tagovailoa in 2020, but the games he relieved the former first-round pick were almost as impressive as his starts. He then capped his Dolphins' career with an insane throw that helped his team squeak out a 26-25 victory over the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 16.
Based on how Fitzpatrick has played recently, one can say with certainty that Washington's offense will be exciting to watch.
5. "He's the man"
Fitzpatrick told ESPN in 2020 that he has been "called every name in the book. People hate me, people love me depending on the week, but again just trying to stay steady and knowing that all that outside noise isn't the thing that's important."
No matter where he goes, though, he has not had trouble winning over a locker room. Just ask his former Dolphins teammates.
"If I could play with him for the next 15 years, I would do it," said tight end Mike Gesicki. "He's the man. I love playing with him and he's helped me out a ton, so I'll always be appreciative of him."
Dolphins head coach Brian Flores said Fitzpatrick brings a "Pop Warner" mentality to the team that resonates with his. teammates. Wide receiver Preston Williams described him as "piped up" and said the quarterback is always ready to play. "He's always got that energy out there on the offense, so we feed off that."
That approach to the game provided a blueprint for Tagovailoa to follow during his rookie season. He saw the way Fitzpatrick handled himself on and off the field and noticed how consistent he was. And even though he was "devastated" about being benched for Tagovailoa during the season, Fitzpatrick continued to be a leader for him and Josh Rosen.
"He's a coach. He's a mentor on and off the field," Tagovailoa said. "But he's also a very, very family-oriented person. Very loving. Very caring for guys."
Rivera wants players who value the team on his roster. It seems Fitzpatrick should have no problem living up to that expectation.