By Jason Keidel
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There's an odd duality among sports fans that eludes this fan.
When I suggested the Jets retain Ryan Fitzpatrick no matter the cost, I was jumped by a pack of online gangsters, who hurled every foul vowel my way.
But you don't have to be a Twitter troll or online tough guy to share this odd view of the sports world.
No one cares that a bunch of stale, old men rake in billions, but let young men make a few million, perhaps above their actual worth, and the world suffers spastic indignity.
What do John Mara, Dan Rooney and Woody Johnson have in common? Besides all being owners of NFL teams, they were born rich. Stupid rich. NFL owner rich. Jim Irsay, another alum of the Rich Kids Club, got busted with a bucket of painkillers in his car while driving. He didn't hear the outrage, the demands that he sell the Colts. But let that happen to a wide receiver, and there would be calls for his vocational head.
Irsay, son of John, is worth $1.78 billion. You have no beef with him. But Fitzpatrick wants $15 million? Are you kidding? Now that's insulting! For all his faults on the field, Fitzpatrick has taken untold shots to the body, had his brain rattle inside his considerable skull, may not remember his name in 30 years.
And the guy went to Harvard. Suffice to say Fitzpatrick knows hard work. Just don't pay him a dime over $8 million in 2016 or else he will be booed off the field.
Yet no one begrudges owners a few billion for being born into the right family, for the happenstance of rich and righteous DNA.
But let a 30-year-old athlete literally risk life, limb and galling head trauma for a few million above market value, and he's a thief, stealing off into the night with bags of your money.
Is Fitzpatrick worth between $15 million and $18 million a year? Of course not. In a stricter sense, none of these behemoths are worth the millions they make, not when you consider the more important jobs done in society with anonymity. Teachers. Cops. Firemen. Garbagemen. Social workers.
But if we move beyond the moral relativism and dwell strictly within the NFL marketplace, then Fitzpatrick is worth whatever he can get. He's surely worth more than the $7 to $8 million the Jets are reportedly offering. Split the baby and get him signed.
Has anyone seen Joe Flacco's paycheck lately? Dude wins one Super Bowl and gets about $150 million. While Flacco was transcendent for that one season -- one postseason, really -- it was just one season. The Ravens didn't even make the playoffs last year, despite being on every sportsbook's short list of contenders in 2015. Though he was an epic disappointment, Flacco just got another raise, signing a 3-year, $66 million deal, including a $40 million signing bonus, and $44 million in total guaranteed money. That's on top of his $152 million deal in 2013, which included $52 million in guaranteed cash. For what?
And we bash Fitzpatrick, a career, NFL vagabond, for trying to cash in during his one moment in the sun? At 33, he won't get another shot to sign a glittering dotted line. Why do you care? Does the money come out of your pocket?
If your concern is limited to a football and payroll context, fine. It's true, the Jets are perilously close to banging their heads on the salary cap. But that's where the signing bonus comes in. Give Fitzpatrick a nice bump up front, front-load his contract and pay him a minimum wage over three years.
What's your alternative?
Geno Smith? Who had to eat through a straw after getting his jaw cracked by a teammate? Who had aguably the worst first quarter in NFL history? Watch his game at the Meadowlands against the Buffalo Bills.
Bryce Petty? Who is just learning to play under center after years of video game spread offenses at Baylor? Petty may have some potential but isn't nearly developed enough to entrust with a 10-win team a few passes from the playoffs in 2015. Notice the Jets have so little faith in Petty they haven't even pretended he's a viable Fitzpatrick replacement. Keep Petty as backup, at best.
RGIII? Who was so coveted he got hemorrhoids on the end of the bench? Washington had every incentive to market Griffin's wares, yet benched him for every game, every quarter, every snap. Jay Gruden's job rode on his decision on his signal-caller, yet he buried the owner's pet on the bench, despite the cornucopia of cash and draft picks Dan Snyder spent to procure the former Rookie of the Year.
Colin Kaepernick? Whose stock fell so far and hard it made Lehman Brothers blush? Kaepernick is little more than a Jim Harbaugh contrivance, a running quarterback in a passing league. Once Harbaugh bolted for his alma mater, the QB fell apart like cotton candy. Chip Kelly, Kaepernick's presumed savior, who adores athletic quarterbacks, has shown zero interest in restoring Kaepernick's name or tweaking his game. Then there's his $11.9 million salary, which is guaranteed in about a week (April 1).
Johnny Manziel? The posterboy for a new Dr. Drew series? Manziel drifts between the social ether of monster to morbid, from pampered rich kid to sad spiral to substance abuse and suicide. His own father says Johnny Football may not see his next birthday. Johnny Manziel is a lot of things, but a bona fide NFL quarterback is not one of them.
Rounding out the dubious list of unsigned quarterbacks:
• Michael Vick
• Charlie Whitehurst
• T.J. Yates
• Matt Flynn
• Josh Freeman
• Jimmy Clausen
• Brandon Weeden
• Tavaris Jackson
Feel like nibbling on that group of characters, castoffs and gypsies?
Maybe Fitzpatrick isn't quite the quarterback you see down the hall at MetLife Stadium. But, for the first time in some time, Ryan's Jets are better than Eli's Giants.
That's worth an investment. The numbers may not be incidental, but they aren't insurmountable. Time to get the Amish Rifle back on the saddle. It won't cost you a penny. I promise.
Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel
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