Eleven seasons, six teams and a few shaves during the journey, Ryan Fitzpatrick never experienced a season like 2015. He was at the top of his game and he embraced the Jets' tight-knit locker room along the way.
"I had more fun this past season than I've ever had playing football," Fitzpatrick told fans gathered at Jets House back in January. "Winning always helps, but the way I was welcomed with open arms by the fans and my teammates — it's such a fun team to play for."
ENJOYED EVERY DAY
Fitzpatrick led the Jets to 10 victories, establishing a franchise-mark with 31 TD while throwing for a personal best 3,905 yards. The Green & White set a franchise mark for yards (5,925) as the club had a pair of 1,000-yard receivers (Brandon Marshall & Eric Decker) and a 1,000-yard rusher (Chris Ivory) for the first time since 1998.
"We had a lot of veteran guys who have played a lot of football and kind of are in it for the right reasons and (were) putting in the time and the hours that are necessary to be successful players," Fitzpatrick said. "I just really enjoyed it not only on Sunday, but every day throughout the week. Unfortunately as players sometimes you get situations where that's not always the case, but this last year was such a fun experience."
A regular in New York City during the offseason, Fitzpatrick took his offensive line to a Rangers-Stars game at Madison Square Garden and also appeared on both the Rachael Ray Show and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. But Fitz would happily have traded it all in for a Jets' playoff appearance.
"Watching those early playoff games, the only thing I could think about was the missed opportunities," he said. "There were plenty that we didn't pull out that we had a chance in."
IMPORANCE OF CONTINUITY
But Fitz, who led the Jets to 5-1 post-Thanksgiving mark, doesn't look behind him for long. Before his contract expired in March, Fitzpatrick was hopeful he could return.
"You sit there and you harp on that a little bit, but as time has passed a little bit you start thinking towards the future and hoping we can keep this thing together," he said in January. "And boy we made big strides from Week 1 to Week 17 in terms of the way we came together as a team especially offensively with the talent we have on the outside, the way the line gelled and I think continuity is such a big thing in this league. So at this point, I'm hoping we can keep this thing together."
FAMILY TO FAMILY
Fitzpatrick, a father of five, used his off time wisely. The 33-year-old Harvard product was focused on a different type of homework as the offseason got underway.
"This is a great time of year for me because I get to spend so much time with my kids and go to basketball practice and help with homework," he said. "Sometimes my 8-year-old genius will help me with problems I have, but it's a great time for me to do all that and get away from football a little bit."
But for a grizzled vet, late summer means training camp and football. Ryan Fitzpatrick found a new professional family last year and today he came back home.