The Bills Have Their Quarterback: Why it Was a Great Move to Lock Down Ryan Fitzpatrick Long Term


The Bills have gone all-in on Ryan Fitzpatrick as their franchise quarterback.

Yesterday, it was revealed that the Bills have signed Fitzpatrick to a big six-year contract extension that could worth as much as $59 million. The contract includes $24 million in guaranteed money.

You don’t make that kind of investment if you don’t believe Fitzpatrick is your quarterback of the future, and GM Buddy Nix said as much yesterday, saying: “I’m excited about Ryan getting this done. He’ll be our quarterback for a long time.”

Of course, the question now is: Did the Bills make the right move here? Is Ryan Fitzpatrick good enough to take you to a Super Bowl? As Bill Simmons pointed out in his column yesterday:

"His last 11 starts: 6-5 record, 17/11 TD/INT ratio, one game throwing for more than 265 passing yards, six games with under 225 passing yards, one game with a QB rating over 100. So when you hear reports that he signed a $59 million extension (breaking today), it makes you furrow your brow."

Sorry Bill, my brow’s not furrowed at all. I’m ecstatic. Here’s why:

Fitzpatrick is good enough to win a lot of football games with. You can nitpick Fitz’s stats all you want, but here’s the important things. The Bills are averaging 31.3 points per game in 2011. They’ve beaten probably the second-best team in the league in New England – a game in which Fitz outdueled Tom Brady. Buffalo is 4-2 despite a pretty porous defense, and the two games the Bills have lost have been three-point losses to good teams on the road. So yeah, you can win with Fitz.

Fitzpatrick fits this team perfectly. For the most part this offense (and really, the whole team) is a eclectic mix of castoffs and unwanted guys who have had to fight and scratch and claw just to get into the league. It’s a team full of undrafted guys like Fred Jackson, Donald Jones, George Wilson, and David Nelson; low draft picks like Stevie Johnson, Kyle Williams, Arthur Moats, Danny Batten and Demetrius Bell; and castoffs like Scott Chandler, Erik Pears, and Drayton Florence. Fitz himself was a seventh-round pick who took a beating playing for awful Rams and Bengals teams before coming to Buffalo and being beaten out for the starting job by Trent Edwards. Fitz had to fight for everything he’s earned in the NFL. He’s the perfect leader for this team, and by all accounts the locker room loves this guy.

Fitzpatrick is the perfect QB for Chan Gailey. Chan Gailey is a pretty brilliant football mind. He’ll give you a chance to score points if your team is smart and can execute. With Fitz, the Bills have a highly intelligent quarterback who works great with Gailey. The Bills are putting points on the board despite injuries ripping apart the receiver corps and the offensive line. As the team continues to improve its talent level, Fitz will get even better.

– Are the Bills really going to get a better QB than Fitz anytime soon? The Bills already have four wins. That eliminates them from the Andrew Luck sweepstakes even if they don’t win again in 2011, because there’s no way all of the league’s terrible winless or 1-win teams get to four wins. There’s a few other decent QBs in the draft – Matt Barkley of USC and Robert Griffin III of Baylor are likely first-round picks – but isn’t going to a rookie QB going to reset this perpetual Bills  rebuilding process yet again? The Bills can win now. They’ve got to go for it.

So, yeah, Fitz’s contract is worth a lot of money. And if he falters it’s going to drag down the franchise for years. But for the first time in a long time the Bills have a QB who gives them a chance to contend for the playoffs. You can’t turn down that kind of opportunity when you’re a franchise like the Bills.