Although Ryan Fitzpatrick completed 59.6% of his passes in 2015, he earned the respect of one of the most accurate signal callers in National Football League history along the way.
"When you watched Ryan play this year, you didn't see a lot of negative plays and that's so important to an offense: keeping drives alive, staying out of negative plays and not being in long yardage situations," said Chad Pennington, who completed 65.6% of his Jets' passes between 2000 and '07. "That's really important. Sometimes you have to sacrifice your own completion percentage and your stats to make the best play for the team and that's very important."
The Jets finished 2nd in the NFL in sacks allowed with 22 as Fitzpatrick was sacked just 19 times while making 16 starts. He was also the team's third-leading rusher, gaining 270 yards on the ground along with 2 TDs.
"For a quarterback, sometimes the best play is to throw it away. Well that means you just have another incompletion which obviously affects your completion percentage in a negative way," Pennington told fans gathered at The Ainsworth in New York City for Jets House. "That was something really good to see from the quarterback position this year was to keep the offense out of negative plays, which makes third down a lot easier, it makes early downs a lot easier, it keeps drives alive, it keeps your defenses out of bad situations and sometimes we forget about that. So many times, our game is trying to be individualized whether it be through fantasy football or whatever, and the game of football is such a team game and it takes all parts to working together."
Reunited with offensive coordinator Chan Gailey for a fourth season, Fitzpatrick was in control as soon as he took over the team's starting duties in August. Displaying poise in the pocket, Fitzpatrick read defenses well pre-snap and delivered the ball at the proper times. And when his team wasn't in a good spot, he would often change things up or improvise with his feet.
"A lot of times it has nothing do with the throws you make, but the protections you help your offensive line get into, the run checks you use to get your offense into the best right plays and all the little things that don't show up in the stat sheet," Pennington said. "That's what I've always appreciated about Ryan Fitzpatrick and what he's been able to do on the field and then how he handles his business off the field. This man has five kids – I only have three!"
Pennington again restated his belief that the Jets would be in good hands if No. 14 is back for a second season with the Green & White.
"I know he has it under control, he does such a great job as the quarterback and there are so many things that go into that on and off the field," Pennington said. "You guys should feel really comfortable with Ryan behind center."