Quarterback is the glamour position in the National Football League. Even as far back as the 1960s, film legend Charlton Heston channeled his inner Billy Kilmer to portray a quarterback on the big screen. But even though the quarterback has no direct impact on the defense, the special teams, the front office, or the coaching, he’s the guy who gets the credit for a win and the blame for a loss. Enter veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick, heading to his ninth team this season after signing with the Washington Football Team in free agency.
Fitzpatrick has started 146 games over his 16 NFL seasons, including 20 over the last two years with the Miami Dolphins. Even though the statistic may have less meaning than wins and losses for pitchers in Major League Baseball, the wins, losses, and occasional ties racked up by their respective teams go on the quarterback’s record. And that’s where Fitzpatrick could have a chance to break an unfair NFL record in 2021.
A long career has Ryan Fitzpatrick in a unique position
Seven retired quarterbacks have managed to “lose” to 30 different NFL teams in their careers. The most recent was the signal-caller Ryan Fitzpatrick will be replacing with the Washington Football Team. Alex Smith took at least one on the statistical chin from every team but the Dolphins and Cleveland Browns in 14 NFL seasons.
The others to lose to 30 teams: Drew Bledsoe, Drew Brees, Brett Favre, Matt Hasselbeck, Jon Kitna, and Carson Palmer. Kerry Collins, also retired, lost to 29 teams. Fitzpatrick is one of 11 quarterbacks with losses to 28 different clubs. That list includes active QBs Joe Flacco, Ben Roethlisberger, and Matt Ryan.
Fitzpatrick, however, can move to the head of the class in 2021, according to Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk. Washington plays three of the four teams remaining on Fitzpatrick’s list. At least, Fitzpatrick can’t lose to the Detroit Lions this season (the Football Team doesn’t meet the Lions this season). But Washington does have dates with the Green Bay Packers, New Orleans Saints, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Washington Football Team a defending division champion
The Washington Football Team added Ryan Fitzpatrick as a free agent after Smith opted to retire. Washington went just 7–9 last season, but that was enough to win the woeful NFL East. The Football Team was just the third team with a losing record over an entire 16-game season to reach the playoffs. They joined the 2010 Seattle Seahawks and 2015 Carolina Panthers.
Both the Browns and Lions were 4–5 in 1982 and reached the playoffs. But that season, the NFL bulked up the playoff field to 16 teams. It was a money grab with extra playoff rounds after a players’ strike wiped out seven weeks.
The teams Fitzpatrick hasn’t lost to that he could face this season are the other NFC division champions. Tampa Bay still has Tom Brady, so they won’t be terrible. The Saints will have a new quarterback after the retirement of Brees. (Since quarterbacks are the only thing that determines wins and losses, that’s important.) The Packers and Aaron Rodgers, meanwhile? Yeah, no one knows.
Ryan Fitzpatrick’s long, wild ride
A seventh-round draft pick in 2005 by the then-St. Louis Rams, Ryan Fitzpatrick came out of the well-known football factory at Harvard to start three games as a rookie. Fitzpatrick didn’t start again until 2008, when he logged 12 starts for the Cincinnati Bengals. Over four seasons with the Buffalo Bills from 2009–12, Fitzpatrick made 53 starts. That included all 32 over the final two seasons he was there.
Nine starts followed for the Tennessee Titans in 2013, 12 for the Houston Texans in 2014. Fitz started 27 with the New York Jets from 2015–16, and 10 games for the Bucs in 2017–18. Then he went across Florida to the Dolphins the last two years.
His “record” in those starts is 59–86–1, with more wins than losses in just three seasons. The Jets were 10–6 in 2015, Tampa Bay went 2–1 in 2017, and last year’s Dolphins went 4–3.
Ryan Fitzpatrick might be in a position to set a new all-time record in 2021. But that record should not go entirely on his shoulders. After all, a guy has to be pretty good to get the opportunity to start — and lose — that many times.
Statistics courtesy of Pro Football Reference.