I wrote a piece yesterday about loyalty and Ryan Fitzpatrick's decision to stay in Buffalo. I was hoping for his sake, Ryan would have seen loyalty as a reason to stay in the place that gave him his first shot. Yeah, I'm not going to lie, I'm so bummed out about Buffalo sports these days that I'm just looking for a corny happy ending for someone – anyone – at this point. For Fitz, he wanted an ending all right and it was the closure to his Bills' career.
I don't know what it was, but I didn't exactly feel there was some sort of countdown to whether the Bills would keep him or not. There was no build-up or even a discussion of the pros and cons. It was just a complete "meh" feeling about his future. It was as if the guy was already finished.
How couldn't you see the writing on the wall?
The fans didn't want him anymore. With a month left in the season, Buddy Nix said on WGR that he wanted to draft a QB. The Bills fired Chan Gailey, a Fitzpatrick supporter. They re-signed a QB who didn't play a single snap last year. The GM pretty much told another NFL GM that Fitz was screwed. They might have even placed his jersey on clearance at the team shop.
That's really Fitzpatrick's career in a nutshell. Even at his apex, it never felt like most fans or experts were willing to get behind him as the franchise QB. He was just a band-aid on a QB-shaped wound.
It is one thing to cheer on a former 1st overall pick (Bledsoe), a first round pick you traded for (Losman), and a highly touted prospect who Bill Walsh endorsed (Trent Edwards). But a lot of people didn't want Fitzpatrick here because he wasn't a high draft pick and he was from Harvard. Fitz started a little over three seasons worth of games here. Maybe I'm naive, but if he had been JP Losman and he was, in essence, a 4th year starter, would we have been so quick to throw his ass out of here after last year? Maybe we would have done the whole young guy goes through growing pains stuff. I know, he's 30 now, but he didn't really play much before he got here.
Even when he got his extension, there was mostly this doubt about Fitz. But there were some desperate football fans who wanted to believe despite what we saw.
I was one of those idiots who believed.
I went on the record multiple times saying he was a franchise QB. Like when he threw 40TDs in a 21 game span. Or when he threw for almost 400 yards against the Ravens defense. I saw it when he threw four 2nd half TDs against Cincinnati. I saw it when he was a drop away from putting up 300 yards and a win over the eventual AFC Champions…and that all happened when they won only 4 games in 2010!!
And what about that magical 5-2 start of 2011? It was the best 7 weeks for the Bills in the last 13 years. Sad, I know. The New England game seemed like it would be the moment the doubts died as he threw for 387 yards. It was the best game I've watched over the last 10 years for the Bills and I'll probably never forget it. He went 9-5 in a 14-game span from 2010-2011. I mean, this actually happened! That's what frustrates me so much. It wasn't just Fitzmagic being an actual trick or some sort of over hyped rookie campaign. The stats were there. The performances were there. It's on YouTube somewhere.
I haven't even gotten into his personalty, how he's a modest underdog and a guy who Buffalo fans can relate to. A guy who got kicked around but kept fighting and actually became a star for 8 weeks. Just reliving the few good moments he had here makes me remember how happy I was for him and this stupid team.
Alas, it just fizzled away. Sure, there were signs that Fitz wasn't a starter in this league and teams eventually caught up to him. We all saw it when he underthrew Stevie Johnson in the back of the end zone against the Giants or when he turned the ball over five times against New England in the home finale of 2010.
But I was desperate.
I wanted them to finally close the door on the search for a franchise QB. Hope can come in a lot of shapes and sizes, and I thought it came as a guy with a lumberjack beard who wore a wedding ring. I just didn't think clearly. The whole getting out of the decade of sadness clouded my vision of him. "So, he made a bad throw..all QBs do that! He played with bad ribs, that's why he sucked ass during the 2nd half of the 2011 season!"
It was there right in my face.
It was no different than the hot streaks we saw from Trent (5-1 start), Losman (TD against Houston), Bledsoe (2002 start), Flutie (1998 season) and just the names keep reading off just like deteriorating relationships. Don't they always say the first 6 months of a marriage of a relationship or marriage are the best, but then it soon goes downhill? That's the Bills QB situation since 1997. Just a bunch of high school crushes that turned out to be nothing more than tainted love.
It hurt me to see Fitz play so badly at times last year and the 2nd half of 2011. He knew the doubts were still there. He knew most fans didn't embrace him as the franchise guy and his play surely wasn't helping him. I'm sure he was shocked as I was when his play went downhill. I think that's why Fitz decided to let it be and not do the walk of shame down the sideline with a clipboard, fighting for his job. It is tough to be the big shot only to then return and pretty much be second fiddle or a loser.
Pride ended up stopping Fitz from coming back here in the end.
The offer he got from Buddy was more than fair and I don't think he'll get that much money or an equal shot at starting anywhere else. However, I think like most fans, he was over being a failure here and he didn't want to fight for a spot that neither the team nor the fans wanted him to have. He couldn't go from owning the locker room and having a t-shirt with his beard on it to being the butt of jokes about his play. In the end, he wanted a fresh start for him and for fans.
I know a number of people are happy to see him bounce because this will open up the doors for a rookie QB and maybe the next Jim Kelly and I'm there with you. However, a piece of me isn't thinking so much about the X's and O's or finding a new hope. A part of me is just so sad that yet another brass ring I believed in was nothing more than an illusion.
And when you dump someone, you normally like to have a girlfriend already in place. I don't exactly see a rebound in sight which makes it all the more disheartening to look back at what I thought we had and knowing the unknown is ahead of us. I really wish I didn't believe. I wish that 5-2 start didn't happen. I wish we didn't suck so badly for the last 13 years.
Yes, it was sad to see Fitzmagic become Fitztragic, but it was even more sadder to have my belief become nothing more than a illusion in my eyes.