NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Updated: Sunday, October 23, 2016, 9:18 PM
Ryan Fitzpatrick blew up the whole damn operation like a steely-eyed hitman who didn’t give a flying you-know-what about the people in his way. He spoke with no emotion, no regret and no doubt that he was betrayed by the people who were supposed to have his back.
A few days after Jets power brokers discarded Fitzpatrick, the veteran relieved an injured Geno Smith in a 24-16 win over the Ravens to snap a four-game losing streak. Then, he raised a figurative middle finger to the brain trust with the bright idea to place its faith in the other guy.
“The biggest thing in this game in order to last, is to have belief in yourself,” Fitzpatrick said. “Because when the owner stops believing in you and the GM stops believing in you and the coaches stop believing in you, sometimes all you have is yourself. That’s something that I’ve had to deal with before. That’s something I’m dealing with now.”
Fitzpatrick’s direct hit at Woody Johnson, Mike Maccagnan and Todd Bowles was real and raw for a player, who saved all their derrieres last season after Smith’s immaturity landed him with a broken face and them without a signal caller.
Bowles, whose curious quarterback waffling last week prompted questions about whether he was getting pressure from external forces, wanted a spark. He might have just found it in a certain ticked-off 33-year-old left for dead.
“I probably play better as an underdog pissed off,” Fitzpatrick said. “So going forward, yeah, I’ll be pissed off.”
Fitzpatrick went 9 for 14 for 120 yards and a touchdown to keep the Jets (2-5) with some flickering hope. Bowles said it’s “too early to tell” whether Smith, who suffered a right knee injury on a sack midway through the second quarter, will be healthy enough to start in Cleveland next week.
Ryan Fitzpatrick rescues the Jets off the bench on Sunday but it never should have been that way.
(Al Bello/Getty Images)
It shouldn’t matter. Fitzpatrick deserves to be under center against the Browns. He is the unquestioned leader and the best quarterback for a team that still believes their season isn’t dead.
Although Smith (4 for 8, 95 yards, including Quincy Enunwa’s 69-yard catch and run for a touchdown) claimed that he was “begging to get back out there,” he watched the second half in sweats.
What’s the upside re-inserting Smith, who will have a MRI on Monday, after Fitzpatrick won in relief?
There is none.
“I don’t know what decision they’re going to make or what Geno’s health is going to be like,” Fitzpatrick said. “But, yeah, I think I should start every week.”
Fitzpatrick turned a 13-7 deficit into a 14-13 lead after engineering a 7-play, 85-yard drive capped by his 13-yard touchdown to Matt Forte on his first possession late in the first half.
Fitzpatrick doesn’t hide his feelings toward the coaches, GM and owner after starting Sunday’s game on the bench.
“He takes control of the huddle,” said Forte, who had 154 total yards and two touchdowns. “It looked like he was relaxed… He came into the huddle and said, ‘What’s up, guys?’ Like he was new or something.”
Fitzpatrick was admittedly shook by his benching, telling teammates that he needed a couple days to process it. He felt that he might have started the final game… for anyone. His sub-par play (league-high 11 interceptions) had contributed to the Jets early-season hole. Maybe, he thought, it was over for him.
“There’s strong emotion there for me especially not knowing if that was the last time I was going to be out there as a starter or not,” Fitzpatrick said. “You start to think about some of that stuff. People giving up on you and then having to see them every day.”
Those people didn’t include the players.
“My teammates’ belief in me is a big thing,” Fitzpatrick said. “Their opinion of me (is) what drives me and what matters. I know I still have that belief in the huddle.”
The Jets fell behind 16-14 before Fitzpatrick & Co. scored on two more possessions to win their first game since their offensive explosion in Buffalo ages ago.
It should be a no-brainer for Todd Bowles on who to start next weekend.
“We’re not done yet,” Fitzpatrick said. “We’re not throwing in the towel.”
Bowles doesn’t need to complicate his quarterback decision this week. There’s no earthly reason to turn back to a less-than-100-percent Smith, who hasn’t proven a single thing for this organization.
Memo to Johnson, Maccagnan and Bowles: Ryan Fitzpatrick is the quarterback, who your players believe in the most. He’s still your best option.
“Let me enjoy it for a couple hours before getting into the quarterback controversy,” Brandon Marshall said.
There is no controversy. It’s obvious who should lead this team right now.