The shiny, new car is always enticing and exciting, but there's something to be said about the older models. They have character and grit, something that deserves appreciation.
Washington Football Team quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese has the same philosophy when it comes to his passers.
“I like guys that have been kicked around a little bit, they know what it’s like to not have and so there’s a built-in hunger when you’re living on the edge like that," Zampese said.
New Washington quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick fits that bill. Now with his ninth team and in his 17th season, Fitzpatrick has pretty much seen it all during his time in the NFL.
Rarely was his situation easy. He's consistently been asked to help in a pinch, swap from the starter to the bench while being prepared to be replaced at any moment and enter messy situations. Zampese, who worked with Fitzpatrick in Cincinnati over a decade ago, understands the challenges his quarterback has faced.
“So not only do you got to walk in and play well and know what you’re doing. You’ve gotta build relationships and build bridges with guys you’ve never met before in a short period of time and make it work for everybody’s sake," Zampese said. "That’s hard to do.”
He also knows that experience will benefit Fitzpatrick and the team as they enter the next chapter together. Zampese, like offensive coordinator Scott Turner, believes the veteran has been playing some of his best football in recent years. Despite entering his late-30s, Fitzpatrick has shown an ability to create flashy plays, push the ball down field and manage the game when his name is called upon.
Zampese has a feeling that his roller coaster of a journey in the league is playing a part in that success. Not only has all the stops with different teams and different offenses given him a vast array of skills, but unlike some others toward the end of their career, Fitzpatrick still has something to prove.
“I think he has such an extreme desire to excel and to be in the top group of quarterbacks and compete at that level. I think he’s ultra-competitive and I think that’s what we’re seeing when we watch his career get better as it goes on," Zampese said. "From banging and bouncing around and making the most of his opportunities, and always learning.”
Beyond that, Fitzpatrick's ups and downs have helped mold him into who he is today as a person. To Zampese, it's someone that exudes confidence and makes it easy for his teammates to connect with him. From the beard to the humor to the rocket arm, he's got it all.
“Well, he’s such a unique look and a unique character and his delivery is dry as can be and he just drops these one-liners and bombs on guys and they don’t even know what happened. He’s gotta great deal of swag for such a, I don’t know what you say about the exterior, I love him," Zampese said. "He’s authentic through all of it which is the important part. He’s got a lot to give, he’s got a lot of experiences.”
That type of personality is one that Zampese feels will make it easy for Fitzpatrick to mesh with his teammates. Praising the quarterback's communication skills, players of all ages won't have a problem bonding with the man under center.
Running backs coach Randy Jordan has seen an impact as well. Though he doesn't work directly with Fitzpatrick, it's become clear to him that the quarterback's skill set and character will benefit more than just the passing game.
“One thing that I love about him, he’s going to push the ball down the field. He’s going to make you guard every blade of grass," Jordan said. "And for the running game I think that’s going to allow the possibility of split safety looks where you get light boxes.”
“What I’ve seen so far from him, he’s been a really really good leader to these guys, especially, you know with my position, being a young group, understanding protections…making sure that everybody is on the same page," Jordan said.
Fitzpatrick may not be the shiniest car on the lot. He's not a young, first-round prospect with his whole career in front of him. He's also not as decorated as some other veterans. But for Washington and Fitzpatrick, that doesn't really matter.
He's Ryan Fitzpatrick, and right now, that's what Washington wants and needs.
‘He doesn’t worry about what anyone else thinks," Zampese said. "He’s just Ryan.”