Pro Football Focus' Sam Monson won't shy away from his appreciation for Washington quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. In a recent piece he wrote, the analyst detailed what there is to like about the passer's ability to remain useful in the NFL for 17 seasons.
At the same time, Monson also supports how the Washington Football Team has added Fitzpatrick to the direction of its franchise. While the veteran may not have been the most flashy acquisition in the offseason, obtaining a course-altering quarterback was never really in the cards for Ron Rivera's team.
Therefore, Monson sees bringing in a temporary solution like Fitzpatrick as the right move.
“I think Fitzpatrick represents a really smart way of doing things and a really smart backup plan, with the understanding that you need to build a team around him," Monson said on 106.7 The Fan's BMitch & Finlay program. "I think they did that really well.”
Washington did make sure to put pieces around Fitzpatrick, adding Curtis Samuel and rookie Dyami Brown to a receiving group that already featured the likes of Terry McLaurin and Logan Thomas. Antonio Gibson out of the backfield helps as well.
Yet, while those weapons will help Fitzpatrick, Monson doesn't want anyone to forget that the quarterback can do the same for the pass catchers.
“People are probably underselling how good Fitzpatrick is right now," Monson said.
According to Monson and PFF, Fitzpatrick's last three seasons have graded out to right around the 15th best quarterback in football. Though it may be a "roller coaster" filled with highs and lows, come the end of the year, Fitzpatrick is right around league average.
Now some may wonder how league average is good, but given what Washington has had in the past, Fitzpatrick's body of work will take the offense to a new level. Alex Smith may have provided wins in 2020, but his limited playmaking ability hindered the full potential of the unit.
“League average play, compared to what they had last year, is a massive step forward," Monson said.
It is, and with Fitzpatrick at the helm, Washington's offense can be more dynamic. Not just because Fitzpatrick is a gunslinger who takes risks, but because they're calculated risks. It's what Monson appreciates about his game.
Using his experience and intelligence, Fitzpatrick understands that by giving his receivers a chance to make plays, the offense reaches a new level. It stretches the field and gets everyone involved.
As Monson noted, Fitzpatrick has no problem throwing the ball to any receiver, whether they are open or not. This could allow not only McLaurin and Samuel to put up big numbers, but give Brown, Cam Sims and Antonio Gandy-Golden the chance to see bigger roles as well.
Throwing together the good in Fitzpatrick with what Washington has is a promising equation to Monson.
“I think Fitzpatrick, again, if he just ranks in the middle of the pack, that makes Washington a very dangerous football team," Monson said.
Going beyond the play on the field, Monson also sees Fitzpatrick as a fit for where Washington is heading. The focus is always on finding the next face of the franchise under center, but he has no problem with Washington building around that position and finding stop gaps in the meantime.
“We [Washington] can kind of cycle through these capable starting veteran quarterbacks until eventually, we find ourselves in a position to get the next young, superstar quarterback in the draft," Monson said.
It may not be the most common strategy, but it's one that has worked in the past.
“There is precedent for this in the NFL. The Minnesota Vikings [in the 1990s] spent the better part of a decade kicking around various veteran quarterbacks and just cycling from one to the other, and they were good during that time," Monson said.
The Vikings made the playoffs seven times from 1990 to 1999 while using the likes of Rich Gannon, Jim McMahon, Warren Moon, Brad Johnson and Randall Cunningham before landing on Dante Culpepper as the QB they saw worthy of using a first-round pick on.
Maybe Washington doesn't go that route, but it is an option. Whether that means trying out Taylor Heinicke or looking to someone like Marcus Mariota or Jameis Winston in the coming years, Monson sees it as a smart play.
It may not be the most attractive route, but it's one that Rivera and company seem to be considering based on what was done in 2021. The team went with Fitzpatrick as a respectable option who can work with the parts around him. What comes next isn't set in stone, and to Monson, both of those decisions make sense.
“It’s an interesting, kind of good approach, to recognize that you don’t always have to be rebuilding, and going all-in for a superstar," Monson said.