It’s impossible to evaluate anything in the NFL without understanding the situation, responsibilities, and expectations of a player within the context of their surroundings. Otherwise, it’s too easy to credit them for things they don’t actually do or blame them for things that aren’t on them to do. Ryan Fitzpatrick’s 2015 season came on one of the Jets most talented offensive rosters in their entire history…
Some of the best receivers to ever wear Jets uniforms took up the top roles of the 2015 offense. A depth of talent sits behind them that is able to gain separation using their athleticism and/or skills; all of whom are very good at adjusting to off-target throws. There’s an offensive line that is shaky but capable of what it is asked to do: stall rushers for enough time to give the quick passing game a clean release. All of this works under a coordinator that understands how to maximize the limitations of his players instead of pushing them outside of their comfort zone.
I’ve gone back into all of Fitzpatrick’s games last season (minus his short appearance in Oakland) and placed all of his season into multiple categories, breaking down Fitzpatrick’s performance within those. This is the first year I’ve ever done this, so we don’t have any players to compare these to but we can at least look in a vacuum to see what’s interesting about them.
Let’s explain how the stats work. The “%” column is not completion percentage but success. If the ball is dropped or there’s a defensive penalty, Fitz’s % does not get penalized for that. So 4/6 with 1 drop and 1 defensive penalty, is actually 4/4. YPA and QB rating don’t penalize for them either. INTable measures whether or not a pass was interceptable regardless of it being finished or not. This means some interceptions that were not on Fitzpatrick are not counted (such as the drop by Marshall vs the Eagles). INTable is counted inside the QB Rating, since this is measuring the QBs play and not their opponents ability to finish interceptions, which is outside of the QBs control. Drops also take account of difficulty to catch, so an off-target throw that the WR doesn’t finish didn’t get counted as a drop.
Not included in these stats are touchdowns lost. In total, Fitzpatrick lost two would-be touchdowns on the season due to drops. Fitzpatrick’s rushing isn’t quantified in here either, this is strictly focusing on his performance in the passing game.
Ryan Fitzpatrick’s Reads
The Reads table looks at Fitzpatrick’s success rate through his decision making in different conditions. Screens and goal line fades have been removed because they are generally designed by the scheme, unless Fitzpatrick audibles into it. Why are we separating reads? We want to see how the QB works off his pre-snap read (which will lead to his first read) and also how he deals with that read being closed.
First read checks how often he saw the first target and threw at them. A QB with a good pre-snap read should win here often and with Chan’s offense making that easier, we should expect good statistics. A 65% completion percentage and a near 8 YPA sounds strong even in a vacuum but a rate of 1 interceptable every 15 passes doesn’t. On the play below, you can see Fitzpatrick use his pre-snap read to see an off-man Cover-1 shell, making the short curl to Devin Smith an easy choice.
The Sail concept was moved into it’s own category because the nature of the play keeps all reads on one side of the field, effectively looking like one single read. Shown below, it overloads the left side with a vertical, corner/out, and flat. Gailey also used another version where the vertical was replaced with a comeback route. Despite the lack of TDs, the statistics remain efficient. The Jets just didn’t use this concept often near the redzone.
Second reads were mostly simplified for Fitzpatrick with Veritical/Out and In/Vertical combos allowing him to stare at one area but he still made mistakes often, increasing his rate of interceptables to once per every 13 second read passes. To make matters worse, Fitzpatrick was never comfortable looking across the field for second reads. Most were short checkdowns or receivers in the same area of the field as his first. On this interception, the design calls for a pick on Bilal Powell’s man underneath. When he sees the pick doesn’t hit the defender, Fitzpatrick leaves that read and makes a poor throw at a covered Marshall.
Decision making doesn’t get a lot better on play-actions either. Although the Jets would run rollouts to simplify reads for Fitz (cutting the field in half), he was still throwing one interceptable every 14 throws. However, he was significantly better at gaining more yards per pass with 8.64 YPA. The play below helps explain why. Seeing cover-1 press man on the pre-snap, the two routes on the left side are able to clear that area by going deep. Play-action holds the LBs in the middle of the field, keeping them from dropping into coverage. Then Enunwa’s curl into the middle holds the LB from dropping deeper. As a result, Marshall is open on a crossing route with no traffic between him and Fitzpatrick.
Pick plays were still counted in first/second reads since Fitzpatrick has to make the decision to use them but were separated to see how often the team used them. When pick plays worked, Fitzpatrick was extremely productive with 87% completed for 8.5 YPA and not a single interceptable thrown. The pick play below shows how it works. Pre-snap movement reveals man coverage, then the outside receiver on the right blocks two Patriots defenders giving Chris Ivory open space in the flat.
Ryan Fitzpatrick Against Situations
Again, Screens and Goal Line fades are removed from here since they’re pre-determined decisions. Playactions weren’t counted in blitzes/non blitzes since defenders sucked into the run get turned into blitzers by default. They weren’t counted in the no pressure area because of how often the Jets rolled out after them, removing the opportunity for pressure. When a player did recognize the rollout however that was counted in pressure.
Against the Blitz, Fitzpatrick had 7% less completion percentage and a full 1 YPA drop. Looking at Fitzpatrick’s rate under pressure and when hit, you can see more drops in efficiency. All of this is to be expected for any QB. However, Fitzpatrick showed often throughout the season that he wouldn’t finish his passing motion when he sensed a hit coming. On top of which, his slow release made it much easier for opposing defenders to reach him and affect the throw.
Fitzpatrick was prone to checking down often when he saw zone coverage due to a discomfort he has searching for space down the field. That’s why his completion percentage shoots up while his YPA drops nearly a full yard. With our offensive cast, this was a strategy that could work very effectively.
Surprisingly, in high-pressure situations like 3rd and 4th down Fitzpatrick saw no significant change in performance. He managed to stay close to his reads total numbers, and converted 41% of 3rd downs that he threw on.
Ryan Fitzpatrick by Targets
Screens and Goal Line fades were removed to see Fitzpatrick’s preferences and not the schemes. This makes it seem like Powell had a smaller part of the offense because many of his receptions were screens.
Out of the 492 decision-based pass attempts I counted, 56% of them went to either Eric Decker or Brandon Marshall. Out of the 272 completions counted, 60% went to one of them too. This chart adds another drop in the bucket of people yelling about the crutch these two players provided to the Jets offense.
Outside of the two stars, a surprisingly efficient target was Quincy Enunwa. Fitzpatrick averaged the third highest YPA on the team when targeting him. That was due to his massive size and ability to adjust for difficult catches, along with the YAC ability he showed. What i’m saying is he’s earned his hype. Unfortunately his 6 drops on non-designed passes leave a noticeable blemish but the great catches he made, like the one below, might help you forget that.
Unsurprisingly, targeting Devin Smith was an awful choice for Fitzpatrick. The two have skill sets that do not work together. Fitzpatrick’s 7 interceptable passes in his direction (at a rate of one every 4 targets!), 38% success rate, and 4.26 YPA made him the worst player to target in the passing game. I counted only two plays as drops for Devin, both occurring in the Houston game so It’s fair to say more of the misses were on Fitzpatrick than Devin.
A player many have wondered about is Jeremy Kerley, and Fitzpatrick was not good targeting him either. Despite two touchdowns, he averaged just 53% success rate when targeting him and 4.27 YPA on a small sample size. Just like Devin, the two were not good fits for each other. Kerley is not a player known for getting separation easily and his small frame requires precise passing, which isn’t Fitzpatrick’s strength.
Ryan Fitzpatrick’s by Routes
Finally, we get our first table which doesn’t exclude anything. The routes were broken down into their simplest terms, for example a quick out and deep out both count as an Out. Checkdown is the term used for any curl route ran by a RB from the backfield.
The vertical route was frustrating throughout the season for Fitzpatrick. This chart doesn’t take distance into account (the next will) but even including all of the shorter verticals it’s not something Fitzpatrick can consistently hit or even be careful with. The same can be said for the corner and post which are also deeper routes.
72 passes could be counted as screens and were the second most thrown route for the 2015 season. Those include a myriad of tunnel screens, WR screens, middle screens, jet screens, TE screens and some very creative screens. Many fans may not have even recognized that the play below was a screen when it happened live and the Titans didn’t either. In general, any throw into the low ground area worked very well for Fitzpatrick, averaging 87% completion, 6.5 YPA and only 1 interceptable on 140 attempts.
One of the surprising parts of the season was Fitzpatrick’s ability to hit comeback routes consistently on a small sample size. The route works perfectly for our main cast of Marshall, Decker, and Devin Smith. Corners were often giving them cushions whether that was due to their size or speed and Fitzpatrick was uncharacteristically precise and on time, leading it to be his most efficient and strongest throw. Second to it is all forms of the In route (drags, digs, etc). Although Fitzpatrick had a few interceptables there, a 74% completion and 9 YPA is nothing to scoff at.
Ryan Fitzpatrick by Distance
We end it all with Fitzpatrick’s season by distance. We’re measuring how far the ball traveled from the line of scrimmage (LOS) to the receiver, not from Fitzpatricks arm nor how far the play goes.
The distance chart isn’t surprising considering what we already know. Fitzpatrick’s success rate drops the further away from the line you get. This is also expected for any QB. However, his rate of interceptable passes jump as the distance increases. So much so, that it almost equals the amount of completions he had with 22 completions (along with 8 extra successes) and 18 interceptables. There’s many reasons why.For one, Fitzpatrick is a regular underthrower.
For two, Fitzpatrick’s decision making on deep passes is questionable. He would occasionally ignore leverage entirely or throw passes that just had no reason being thrown. The play below probably being the worst of the bunch, Fitzpatrick is tasked with reading the safety to decide between throwing at Devin Smith’s deep post or Enunwa’s shorter post. The right choice would’ve been a timely and tough throw to Enunwa. That isn’t the choice he makes.
Other than the deep passing what stands out is Fitzpatrick’s redzone statistics. Despite a season full of interceptables, he only had 1 in the redzone for the whole year; the ill advised pass in week 17 to Eric Decker. Other than that, he was able to create 22 of his 31 touchdowns in this pivotal area. How? Well, Gailey’s playcalling played a huge part. He designed passes that Fitzpatrick trusted and executed exactly as drawn up, but that wasn’t all he did. The next play is one of his best redzone moments.
Seeing a cover-1 shell on the pre-snap, Fitzpatrick knows that if he wants Decker he can not bring the safety over to his side. He checks the safety as he begins to turn on the playaction, looks over at the left side noticing the deep corner in his zone (and holding the safety at bay) and then immediately turns and releases to Decker. Because of the playaction, the traffic that could’ve been in the way of the throw was sucked in and Fitzpatrick’s execution created a touchdown.
As I mentioned when we started this journey, Fitzpatrick is the first player I’ve ever done this for. That ironically makes placing his context stats within context impossible right now. But what we do have is an idea of how he played and what he did in the situation he was given. Expect this to continue this year, week to week, for the entire Jets season.
Photo Credit: NewYorkJets.com