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Keidel: Life Without Fitzpatrick Would Be Scary For Jets, Their Fans

By Jason Keidel
» More Columns

Perhaps the longest staring contest since Elway vs. the Colts has plunged into the theater of the absurd.

If you were told your team went 10-6 last year behind a quarterback who set team records, would you be so quick to unload him?

That's where Jets fans are right now, too many of whom can't wait to end the fruitful Ryan Fitzpatrick experiment. And it's not like they have a young John Elway at the ready.

Talent evaluators often overvalue quarterbacks, but they rarely undervalue them. So when they wince at Christian Hackenberg's accuracy and mechanics, that should raise a few flags.

Hackenberg may be the face of the franchise in the future, but not this year. And for those who still think Geno Smith has a place in the plans, just consider that game against the Bills in 2014, at MetLife, when he played perhaps the worst single quarter in NFL history.

At the risk of redundancy, it baffles yours truly to hear fans so ardently assert that the Jets not cross the hard line and pay Fitzpatrick a reasonable wage. For whatever reason, it's fine for owners to bag billions, yet galling when players ask for millions.

The jaded Jets fan will point to his record-breaking 2015 as an anomaly. So what? He did lead the team to a 10-6 record while tossing 31 touchdowns. He was real, and really good. Sure, he tossed the pick that sealed their season. He also pushed them to the playoff edge.

But you have no problem with Sam Bradford -- who, despite being a No. 1 draft pick, has done nothing in the NFL -- getting $22 million guaranteed. Nor did you flinch when Brock Osweiler, who has done even less, was assured $37 million from the Houston Texans.

But Ryan Fitzpatrick hasn't won any playoff games!

Neither has Bradford nor Osweiler.

Steve Serby from The New York Post made a reasonable offer, to the Jets and Fitzpatrick -- two years, $21 million, with $18 million guaranteed.

Please don't say you don't want Fitzpatrick under center this season. You can't honestly declare you feel more or even equally comfy with Hackenberg or Smith calling plays. Or Bryce Petty.

Fitzpatrick may be an embellished bridge to one of the younger guns. But he's just as sturdy as the bumpy, pothole-laden George Washington Bridge, which seems to get millions of natives to their homes and jobs every week.

It's one thing to be a shrewd negotiator, to drive a petrified bargain to get the most out of your salary cap. It's another thing to remove or replace the most irreplaceable player on your (or any) roster -- the quarterback.

Gang Green has too many high-end skill players on the wrong side of 30 to toy with the QB and the alchemy he built with said players. The Jets are a playoff team right now. If you're overly concerned with the club's future, remember the league's dark acronym -- Not For Long -- designed for teams that dwell too far down the road.

The Jets were 10-6 with Ryan Fitzpatrick last year. It's not a stretch to assert they could very well be 6-10 without him this year. Even if you disagree with that assertion, do you really want to find out who's right when all it takes is decent offer for a very decent player?

Follow Jason on Twitter at @JasonKeidel

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