Per NFL Insider John Clayton, one of the most entertaining and luxuriously-bearded quarterbacks of the past two decades is hanging up his cleats. Ryan Fitzpatrick is leaning towards retirement, and the NFL will be a less magical place as a result.
Over a career that spanned more than 15 years and 8 teams, Fitzpatrick never ceased to inject a level of infectious enthusiasm into the game that few have mirrored. Whether sprinting for a first down like running backs 10 years his junior or slinging wild hail marry game-winners, “Fitzmagic”, as he’s become affectionately known, never failed to win over the hearts of his teammates, his coaches, and most importantly, his fans. The grizzled, bearded wonder was a fan-favorite gunslinger at each stop of his journey through a full one fourth of the NFL’s ball clubs, and though he never cemented himself as a franchise quarterback, each team’s fans always seemed grateful for his time in their city.
Fitzmagic’s final stop was in aqua and orange. He joined the Miami Dolphins in free agency prior to the 2019 season and steadily guided a team that, at one point, seemed like it could’ve been one of the worst in franchise history. Despite gutting the roster of all veteran talent and preparing for a full on “tank job”, head coach Brian Flores and general manager Chris Grier were delivered hearty performances game in and game out, as the team coasted to a 5-11 finish that placed them in perfect position to select Fitzpatrick’s successor in Tua Tagovailoa.
Heading into 2020, Fitzpatrick was still viewed as a team leader and the franchise’s starting quarterback despite the presence of an uber-talented youngster. Through the veteran’s unceremonious benching after Week 5 and subsequent awkward Q&A session with the press, Fitzpatrick and Tagovailoa seemed to remain not only good friends, but great teammates, as the first-round pick was glued to the Harvard grad’s hip at all times. Even when Fitzpatrick was relegated to “relief pitcher” duties, he was simply thrilled to take the field. His energy was palpable, and it permeated through every other player on the team.
Fitzpatrick leaves the NFL with a 59-86-1 win-loss record, 34,977 passing yards, 223 passing touchdowns, 21 rushing touchdowns, 169 interceptions, and an 82.3 QBR over the course of 16 NFL seasons. But it’s not his stats that we’ll remember. It’s the majestic beard, unfiltered, “heart on his sleeve” honesty, and childlike love of the game that will leave a legacy that Dolphins fans and fans all around the NFL will always remember.