In Defense of Ryan Fitzpatrick

Many of us — certainly including me — have said some harsh things over the last few weeks about embattled Texans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (TM?  Has that been trademarked yet?  If not, I’m calling dibs on Embattled Texans Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick; I have a feeling you’ll be hearing it a lot this month).  But he hardly deserves all the blame, or actually, any of the blame.  In the words of another gentle, Harvard-educated, magnificently-bearded man, “It’s not your fault, Ryan.  It’s not your fault.  It’s not your fault.”  Here are the individuals and groups who are really to blame for the Texans’ woes:

The Running Backs.  For those of you too young to remember, or too old to care, there was once a video game called Tecmo Bowl.  It was a bit primitive — you could only run four plays: two runs, two passes — but if you used Bo Jackson’s Raiders, you’d be unstoppable.  All you’d have to do is keep pressing the “sweep left” and “sweep right” buttons like a crack-addicted monkey in the world’s most sadistic psych experiment, and you’d cruise to victory.  As coach Bill O’Brien, like Gary Kubiak and Dom Capers before him, seems to think Tecmo Bowl is a how-to guide, we really need our running backs to be Bo Jackson.  Arian Foster, Alfred Blue… one or both of you needs to become Bo Jackson, stat.  Preferably both.  Get on that.

The Fullback.  Jay Prosch has three, and only three, functions in Bill O’Brien’s offense:  falling down while trying to lead block running left; falling down while trying to lead block running right; and failing to catch the occasional flare pass.  He performs all three of those functions admirably.  It might benefit the team, however, if he tried falling down after making contact with a defender.  Or actually catching a pass every now and again, you know, for variety’s sake.

The Wide Receivers.  Sometimes we have to face harsh truths, everyone: Andre Johnson has lost a step.  When he was a younger man — back when David Carr and Matt Schaub were throwing to him — he could haul in wobbly, erratic crap while quadruple-covered.  Now he can only haul in wobbly, erratic crap while triple-covered.  He’s washed up.  His young counterpart Nuk Hopkins has loads of talent, but lacks the experience to know when to break off his routes ten to fifteen yards short so Fitzpatrick can actually get it there (hint: always).  The less said about the likes of Keyshawn Martin and Damaris Johnson, the better.  Literally, because more people claim to have been probed by aliens than to have seen either of those guys catch an NFL pass.  Let’s not spread misinformation here, people.

The Tight Ends.  Most NFL teams employ one to three tight ends on a regular basis.  They block, and sometimes catch passes, and are generally considered useful and productive members of a football squad.  The official team website assures me that the Texans actually have a few of these players on the roster, but the only sightings are on grainy, out-of-focus amateur videotape.  Maybe the web guy was trying to spell “sasquatch.”  Damn autocorrect.

The Offensive Line.  Just because Fitzpatrick looks like a schizophrenic hobo doesn’t mean he plays like one.  An unmedicated asylum escapee needs twenty, twenty-five seconds to read a defense and make a throw.  Fitz is a professional; he can easily do it in nineteen.  You’ve got to give him time, guys.

The Defense.  As of right now, the Texans’ defense is only forcing two red zone turnovers per game.  That’s pathetic.  Y’all have got to step it up.  Especially you, JJ Watt.  You’ve only got two touchdowns in five games; Peyton Manning had four in last Sunday’s game alone.

The Kicker.  Randy Bullock has actually been the picture of consistency this season, going nine for ten and making some truly clutch kicks.  But he’s got the size to play several line positions, and I’m sure he could fall down harmlessly in the backfield with near-Proschian grace.  Football’s a team sport, Randy.

The Punter.  Shane Lechler has completed one pass so far this season.  One!  Coming from the Big Ten as he does, I’m sure Bill O’Brien is deeply uncomfortable with that kind of high-powered aerial assault.  But sometimes you’ve got to lead by example.  Take some shots downfield, Shane.

The Practice Squad.  Do you know those guys don’t even suit up on Sundays?  Dogging it like that can sap a whole team’s morale.

The Head Coach.  Actually, the head coaching situation is super duper fine.  It’s not important that O’Brien assembled his playbook from a dusty manila folder he found in the back of Gary Kubiak’s old desk, labeled “Too Simplistic: Do Not Use.”  It doesn’t matter that the opposing team’s fans start chanting “domo arigato, Mister Roboto!” the minute he puts on the headset.  And you can ignore that copyright infringement lawsuit from Nintendo Power magazine.  Because O’Brien has a chin you could hide a full-grown California Condor in, and between that and Fitzpatrick’s beard they’ve got an entire endangered ecosystem over there on the sidelines.  Sure, we won’t win any more football games with him, but we’ll be saving the planet.  And isn’t that what really counts?

All that being said, I do kind of wish they’d start Ryan Mallett sometime soon.

I’m pretty sure Mallett quarterbacks the Max Power Way (“Isn’t that the wrong way?” “Yeah, but faster!”).  So, again, we wouldn’t win any more games.  But don’t you think Dre and Nuk would like to switch it up a bit?  Instead of trying to field three-hoppers like armored shortstops, wouldn’t they enjoy watching beautiful spirals sailing twenty feet over their heads for a change?  Wouldn’t Foster like taking handoffs from a slightly different angle before eleven defenders, three bench players, and a referee plow into him behind the line of scrimmage?  Wouldn’t Jay Prosch get a kick out of fluttering harmlessly to the turf near a guy with a slightly higher uniform number?

Variety is, after all, the spice of life.

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