Here's a sentence that'll make the heads of NFL fans spin and then spin some more: In 2015, Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Jets combined for a highly-productive campaign. By many measures, it can be considered the best of the quarterback's 16 years in the league, actually.
And there's reason to believe that Fitzpatrick, who's now clad in Burgundy and Gold, can truly approach the success he had in 2015 with his new franchise.
First, let's recap his exploits in New York.
2015 represents one of the three times Fitzpatrick has started all 16 matchups on his squad's schedule, and in those 16 matchups, he threw for 31 touchdowns (seven more than his next-best total) against just 15 picks. The signal-caller finished with 3,905 passing yards (also a career high) and a QBR of 62, which, until exceeding that number in his last two go-rounds with the Dolphins, was also a career-high.
Fitz has certainly had a fair share of runs before and after 2015 — he's cited his 2014 experience with the Texans as a real wake-up call for him in terms of playing the position, and his completion percentage has enormously improved in his recent stints in Tampa Bay and Miami — but that year with the Jets is the only one where he sustained an above-average performance from the opener to the finale (New York finished 10-6, yet another best for Fitzpatrick, but missed the playoffs after losing a tiebreaker to the 10-6 Steelers).
Next up, let's evaluate what he had around him for the AFC East outfit.
Fitzpatrick's top two wideouts, Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker, were studs. Marshall exploded for 109 catches, more than 1,500 yards and 14 end zone trips, and Decker supported him with 80 grabs of his own, 1,027 yards and 12 TDs. As far as tandems go, it doesn't get much scarier than those two. Chris Ivory, meanwhile, led the rushing attack with 1,070 yards and seven six-pointers on the ground.
The QB was also protected extremely well. The Jets' offensive line allowed just 22 sacks in 2015, the second-fewest in the sport, and Fitzpatrick was the victim of 19 out of those 22. In all, he was taken down on a minuscule 3.3% of his dropbacks. His pockets were almost always clean.
Then there was New York's defense, a unit that finished fourth in yards allowed, ninth in points allowed and third in turnovers forced. While Fitzpatrick and Co. proved to be more than capable on their own, the guys across from them sure made their duties easier by being so stingy.
Now, it's time to compare that situation to the one Fitzpatrick is in currently.
In Terry McLaurin, Fitzpatrick will share the huddle with a Pro Bowl-caliber receiver. McLaurin may not be as established as the tremendous 2015 version of Marshall was, but he undoubtedly has the speed, hands and route-running chops that any quarterback would be overjoyed to work with. As for Curtis Samuel, his skill set is a lot different than Decker's was, but he, too, is a tantalizing weapon for Fitzpatrick to target on a weekly basis.
Besides, Fitzpatrick may not need McLaurin and Samuel to match what Marshall and Decker did in 2015, because he'll have more options with Washington than he did in New York.
No Jets tight end in that season hauled in even double-digit receptions; Logan Thomas, by comparison, notched 72 in 2020. Antonio Gibson and JD McKissic can each contribute greatly out of the backfield when it's necessary to throw (and that's without mentioning what Gibson is supposed to do as a runner). Dyami Brown and Adam Humphries should be useful assets in special roles as well.
Washington's offensive line, to be fair, will more than likely be a downgrade for the 38-year-old. No one's tabbing that bunch to be elite like Fitzpatrick's linemen were a handful of seasons ago. Even so, it's by no means a group of slouches — Brandon Scherff is an All-Pro, Chase Roullier and Charles Leno are supremely durable and Sam Cosmi is a second-round choice with a rare collection of physical tools.
Lastly, arguing that Washington's defense can outdo New York's from their 10-6 effort is a relatively easy case to make. As annoying as summer prognostications can be, plenty of pundits believe Jack Del Rio's charges have the chance to be the class of the NFL in 2021. At the very least, top-five finishes in the crucial categories is the goal.
Poking holes in the résumé of a pro who's traveled from team to team (to team to team to team to team to team to team to team) is a simple task, one that Fitzpatrick's skeptics do often — and not totally without merit, either. He's been lining up on Sundays since 2005 and has never experienced the postseason, and his lows are disgustingly low.
However, on the rare occasion that Fitzpatrick was surrounded by quality talent on offense and paired with a serious defense, he excelled. That's just a fact. And don't be surprised if he reaches that level again in 2021 should Washington turn out to be as legit as many expect them to be.