Would WFT be better with Ryan Fitzpatrick healthy? originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
There has been a good deal of frustration among fans with the Washington Football Team’s 2-3 start and that is interesting in a way, given they lost their starting quarterback in Week 1 to a hip injury that has kept him out long-term. Usually, teams get cut some slack if they lose their quarterback, which is arguably the most important position in all of team sports.
Perhaps that anger and discontent has more to do with the decades of losing piling up on top of each other. Or, maybe fans find the struggles of the defense in particular as less, well, defensible.
But it could also be because backup Taylor Heinicke hasn’t really been the problem. Yes, the Heinicke bandwagon got scratched up pretty bad last Sunday when he threw two interceptions and zero touchdowns against the Saints, but that was after he threw eight TDs in four weeks to begin the season, which put him in some rare company in franchise history.
Heinicke has been a nice surprise and a capable replacement for original starter Ryan Fitzpatrick. In fact, the numbers suggest he’s doing a very similar job to what could reasonably be expected from Fitzpatrick himself.
While there was some discussion in local media recently about who a good player comparison is for Heinicke, Fitzpatrick may be the best one out there. As we have seen with Heinicke in recent weeks, his game is a double-edged sword. Sometimes he throws touchdowns and sometimes he throws picks. He can win you games and also, in some cases, probably lose them for you, too.
Doesn’t that sound like Fitzpatrick? Really, has any quarterback in his generation more defined the duality of ‘live by the gun, die by the gun?’
Whether you answer that rhetorical question one way or another, the stats are very similar. Check out Heinicke’s 2021 numbers compared to the ones Fitzpatrick compiled in the three seasons before he got here, as that offers a snapshot of the quarterback Fitzpatrick is today and excludes his less consistent early years:
Taylor Heinicke (2021): 5 G, 8 TD, 5 INT, 5.0 TD%, 3.1 INT%, 64.2 CMP%, 241.6 Y/G, 7.6 Y/A, 90.0 QB rating
Ryan Fitzpatrick (’18-20): 32 G, 50 TD, 33 INT, 4.9 TD%, 3.3 INT%, 64.8 CMP%, 249.6 Y/G, 7.9 Y/A, 91.8 QB rating
Clearly, Fitzpatrick has the larger sample size, but look at the rate statistics. Their touchdown and interception percentages, completion percentages, yards per game and attempt averages and quarterback ratings are all very close to each other. Heinicke and Fitzpatrick, according to these samples, are basically clones.
Last season with the Miami Dolphins, Fitzpatrick began the year as their starter. After five games, they were 2-3 with him at nine total touchdowns (seven passing, two rushing) and five picks. Washington has that same record with Heinicke producing nine total touchdowns (eight passing, one rushing) and five interceptions.
Now, there is a chance things would be different if Fitzpatrick were under center. They aren’t the same people and therefore could produce different results. There could even be intangible differences, like their chemistry with certain pass-catchers or a belief from teammates in Fitzpatrick given his longer track record and veteran presence.
But amid all the problems Washington is working through, between their defense, kicking situation and various off-the-field distractions, at least their quarterback situation has at least in one sense been stable. Heinicke picked up right where Fitzpatrick left off.