By Steve Silverman
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The Jets did not hesitate when it came to bringing in a veteran running back who is capable of taking over a game as a runner or a receiver.
Matt Forte is a true professional who has been undervalued at nearly every stage of his career. The Chicago Bears were the beneficiaries of his services for the last eight seasons, but they were quick to let him know that his services were no longer required.
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Forte, 30, has crossed the Maginot Line for running backs. You tell an NFL general manager that a running back is over 30, and watch him run the other way.
But Jets GM Mike Maccagnan did not head for the hills, and he took a look at Forte’s versatility and realized that Forte is capable of becoming one of the offense’s key performers.
There’s an economy of movement when Forte takes the ball from the quarterback that allows him to hit the hole and get through it quickly. However, he may be even more valuable as a receiver for quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.
That is, if Fitzpatrick is the quarterback for the Jets in 2016.
For some reason, the Jets have not yet engaged Fitzpatrick’s services for the upcoming season, and that is significant. Fitzpatrick exceeded all expectations in 2015 and had the Jets on the verge of clinching a playoff spot, but they could not seal the deal, losing to the Bills on the road in the last game of the season.
For some, that’s an indication that Fitzpatrick is not an elite NFL quarterback and should not be paid the mega-millions that most starting quarterbacks in the NFL make in the current environment.
There’s nothing new with that theory. Fitzpatrick has long been viewed as somewhat of an odd duck in the NFL.
Fitzpatrick is a Harvard man who became an NFL player in 2005 when the St. Louis Rams drafted him in the seventh round.
Fitzpatrick’s collegiate career with the Crimson was all about accomplishment and consistency, and that’s why he was given a chance. However, that Harvard-Ivy League background has never done him much good in the NFL.
While Fitzpatrick has always been looked at as an overachiever with limited potential, he has completed more than 60 percent of his passes in the NFL and exceeded the 23-TD pass mark four times in his career.
Fitzpatrick is coming off the best year of his career, as he completed 335 of 562 passes for 3,905 yards with 31 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. Fitzpatrick’s TD pass total was the same as Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers, and that’s pretty good company. It’s only five behind Tom Brady, who led the league in scoring passes.
When it comes to the subjective judgments that come with quarterbacks, Fitzpatrick does not win. He is 6-foot-2 and 221 pounds, and that’s average size for a quarterback. While he can escape the pass rush, he is not a fast runner by any stretch.
His throws don’t have the kind of velocity that quarterbacks taken in the first round usually possess, so there are several reasons to discount Fitzpatrick.
But there are a couple of reasons why the Jets should not do that: He is the best quarterback they have, and he has proven he can come through when the game is on the line.
Fitzpatrick has more than enough physical ability, even though he doesn’t rate high among many scouts. But he has the combination of guts, intelligence, integrity and desire to get the job done.
Based on his performance last season, Fitzpatrick is easily in the top half of starting quarterbacks in the NFL.
He deserves to be paid for his accomplishments and for what he can do in the future.
The Jets are making a big mistake in playing hardball with their quarterback. They are sending a message throughout the organization that management does not think they have a quarterback who is among the best in the league.
Everyone will make nice if and when Fitzpatrick inks a new contract with the Jets, but the brain trust is hurting Fitzpatrick.
He is a quarterback who has heard he doesn’t really belong since coming into the NFL, and he has spent 11 years proving people wrong.
He is a competent NFL quarterback who knows how to win games and is willing to sacrifice his body in order to make that happen. He deserves to be paid for that talent and lauded for his leadership.
It’s time to recognize Fitzpatrick’s ability instead of minimizing it.
You understand that and so do Fitzpatrick’s teammates. It’s too bad that his bosses don’t get it.
Follow Steve on Twitter at @ProFootballBoy