Dear Fitz: Go tell McNabb or Vince Young about your problems

Donovan McNabb.

Vince Young.

JaMarcus Russell.

As Ryan Fitzpatrick expressed his discontent with Jets leadership on Sunday, those were some of the first names of prematurely-ended careers that popped in my mind.

Privileged.

Entitled.

Audacity.

As Fitz clarified his “very difficult situation” Wednesday, those were some of the other words that came up.

“When the owner stops believing in you and the GM stops believing in you and the coaches stop believing in you, sometimes all you have is yourself,” Fitzpatrick said on Sunday. “That’s something that I’ve had to deal with before. That’s something I’m dealing with now.”

Others can debate just how selfish Fitz was to make these remarks amidst a quarterback controversy at a time before we knew about Geno Smith’s season-ending injury. And how do you think Geno would have been treated by the fans and media had he said the same?

Fitz’s words were so damn troubling because they were so dead wrong.

Few NFL quarterbacks have ever received MORE belief from NFL coaches, MORE support, MORE privilege and MORE benefit of the doubt than Ryan Fitzpatrick. And we’re not even talking about all that dough ($59M for six years, $24M guaranteed) the Bills handed him in the middle of the 2011 season. Fitz went on to lose eight of his next ten games that season, throwing 17 picks to just 12 TDs and a 60% completion percentage. That’s a pace of 32 INTs over a 16-game season. Fitz was out of Buffalo after the 2012 season.

And yet, Fitz is completely blind to it.

Does Fitz even know his terrible start to this season was far worse than the one that ended the career of future Hall of Famer Donovan McNabb?

“That’s difficult even for a guy that has been on six different teams and done it in every which way,” Fitzpatrick said. “I’m human. I have emotion … That was a very difficult situation for me, because I’m a human being … I’m not a robot … There is a human element to it.”

Did you catch the privileged part?

Six. Different. Teams.

Before the Jets, Fitz played 10 years and never had a single winning season while going 33–55 as a starting quarterback. And yet, the Jets were the SIXTH team to give him another starting chance.

Fitz finally made good by leading the Jets, but was denied a playoff spot due to silly division rules that rewards inferior teams.

But every time Fitz failed, another team was there willing to give him another chance.

And you know what they always say: “sixth time’s a charm”.

NO!

No Black quarterback will ever say this. Hell, most white ones, too.

The real problem is “three times a charm” is a foreign language to a Black quarterback.

Go ahead, comb through the stats of starting Black quarterbacks and see how many survived three straight losing seasons or even two?

Now the former 7th-round draft pick out of Harvard will get a 7th chance to be a starter after being benched last week.

Let’s be statistically clear: if Fitz were a black quarterback his career would’ve ended MANY years ago.

The only debate is which year.

Yet, Fitz has the audacity to confuse the words privilege with adversity.

Fitz, tell your “difficult situation” to McNabb, Vince Young and Jamarcus Russell.

Donovan McNabb

Donovan McNabb

(Jim Mone/AP)

GO TELL DONOVAN MCNABB

Fitz was upset he had been benched despite a 1-5 start in 2016 and a 66.4 Passer Rating that is currently dead last in an NFL filled with Blaines, Blakes and Brocks.

After Donovan McNabb’s 1-5 start in 2011 with the Minnesota Vikings and a far more respectable 82.9 passer rating, his career came to an abrupt end.

McNabb’s Vikings were only a couple plays away from a 3-3 or 4-2 record as two games were lost at game’s end (one in OT) due to collapses by the Vikings’ 31st-ranked defense.

Once the Vikings record dropped to 1-5, Minnesota turned to rookie Christian Ponder.

The switch to Ponder was made for similar reasons as the Jets switched from Fitz for Geno. For a non-playoff bound team, it makes long-term sense to assess and develop younger players than play a veteran quarterback.

Although Ponder was pretty awful (1-7 in eight full games; 70.1 rating;), the switch was defensible.

What happened next was unforgivable.

After the Bears’ Jay Cutler went down with a season-ending injury, McNabb, a Chicago native, requested his release from the Vikings with hopes to sign on with Chicago or another team in the playoff mix.

There would be no homecoming.

Instead of signing McNabb, the 7-3 Bears went with undrafted Caleb Hanie because Bears offensive coordinator Mike Martz favored QBs who knew his “system.” A disappointed McNabb later reflected:

“I thought the Bears would call. So many people continuously talked about the Mike Martz offense… If you want to win and win now, you go out and get a better quarterback and you cater your offense to his strengths, and obviously the strengths of your team.”

Instead, Caleb led the Bears to four straight losses with a 41.8% passer rating (note to editor: not a misprint). At season’s end, Martz would “resign” due to “philosophical differences” with head coach Lovie Smith.

Despite five NFC Championship Games, 6 Pro Bowl selections and a Hall-of-Fame pedigree, no other team would sign McNabb in 2011.

McNabb then worked out near his offseason home in Phoenix with other NFL players like Larry Fitzgerald, hoping to latch on with the Arizona Cardinals. Instead of the dynamic pairing with Larry, the Cardinals opted to ride the four-headed disaster of John Skelton, Kevin Kolb, Ryan Lindley and Brian Hoyer to a 5-11 record.

No other team would call McNabb in 2012.

McNabb’s 2011 passer rating was superior than the majority of NFL starting QB’s including Joe Flacco, Carson Palmer, and yes, Fitzpatrick. By 2012, both men completed 3-season stretches where Palmer went 12-27 and Fitz went 16-29. Palmer and Fitz were awarded new teams and new lives in 2013.

In truth, the career of Donovan McNabb effectively ended on October 31, 2010.

That day, the team in Washington was 4-3 and head coach Mike Shanahan famously benched McNabb with two minutes left in a winnable game in favor of Rex Grossman who fumbled the game away on the first play.

Dear Fitz, this is the kind of support Donovan McNabb received.

Afterward, the always calm ex-coach Tony Dungy reacted: “If I’m Donovan McNabb, I’m hot. I’m your starting quarterback. As a coach, I can’t take you out of a game we have a chance to win if I believe in you.”

In the media, Shanahan would publicly humiliate McNabb three times over by saying Rex “gave us the best chance to win” (ouch!) before questioning McNabb’s mental and physical capacity to run the two-minute drill. Many journalists called out Shanahan’s racially-charged missives, and McNabb reflected back in 2011:

“When you start to challenge my intelligence, you’re gonna challenge my manhood, everything that I’ve been able to accomplish throughout the years, that’s disrespectful,” he said.

After McNabb, Shanahan would go 19-32, get fired in 2013 and can now be found on the campaign trail this month stumping for Donald Trump.

In “Why Rex Grossman and Caleb Hanie Are More Employable than McNabb”, I provided a deeper dive into the football-tragic ending of Donovan’s career and conclude that “Shanahan did far more than challenge (McNabb’s) intelligence — he challenged his long-term future employment prospects. Shanahan’s ‘reference’ wasn’t just an individual attack – it was institutional.”

EFE OUT

Vince Young

(DAVID J. PHILLIP/AP)

GO TELL VINCE YOUNG

Fitzpatrick’s comments are strikingly similar to Young’s comments about his then-Titans coach Jeff Fisher. After his release from the Titans, Young reflected:

“I didn’t feel like (Fisher) trusted me. In the five years I was there, I was always looking over my shoulder. … I didn’t feel like I was his guy all the way.”

Shanahan never wanted McNabb, and Fisher never wanted to draft Young. He wanted Matt Leinart instead (yeah, I know). Both McNabb and Young were acquired at the urging of their team owners.

Jeff Fisher sabotaged Young’s career by constantly yanking him out of games in favor of Kerry Collins at the slightest mistake. Just how bad was Fisher?

In 2009, a 37-year old Collins began the season “0-6” which culminated in a 59-0 loss to the Patriots with Collins throwing for -7 yards (note to editor: not a misprint). At this point Titans Owner Bud Adams stepped in and forced Fisher to start Young. Fisher’s stubborn public response?

“I’m still in (Kerry’s) corner, but we’ve decided to go ahead and make this change,” said Fisher.

Dear Fitz, this is the kind of support Vince Young received.

Collins would receive nine lives despite going 10–21 from 1997-1999 and 11-33 from 2003-2006. Collins also survived public bouts with alcoholism, racial altercations and fist-fights with teammates.

Young, a college champion, would continue that special leadership quality of winning close games, go to the Pro Bowl twice, and post a stellar 30-17 won-loss record.

Vince was a winner.

And then there is this: Vince Young’s stats in his four seasons Fisher permitted him to get more than a few snaps:

Vince Young Passer Rating

2006: 66.7

2007: 71.1

2009: 82.8

2010: 98.6

Notice any trends?

Do you think an NFL coach might want to nurture such a quarterback’s growth process a little longer?

Never happened.

Fisher’s final career blow was removing Young mid-game in 2010 for some rookie named Rusty Smith.

In absolute disgust, Young confronted Fisher, walked out of the locker room and that incident sealed his fate.

Effectively, Vince Young’s career really ended that day.

Dear Fitz, Black quarterbacks don’t get to have “human” reactions – even justifiable ones – and not face serious repercussions.

Why?

Because Black quarterbacks can’t never win a public battle against a veteran white coach.

Sports media, a white-dominated institution absolutely obsessed with condemning Black misbehavior, would naturally focus on Young as a “head case” and never inquire about the source of his headaches.

Fisher committed one of the worst cases of internal star sabotage in NFL history.

To recap 2011, Vince Young at 28, and Donovan McNabb at 34 would play their final games, and 39-year-old Kerry Collins capped off a 17-year career (73.8 rating) with three more starts (0-3).

Fisher, the NFL poster child for coach affirmative-action, is now embarking on his sixth consecutive losing season in an NFL world where Black coaches rarely ever survive two (even Lovie Smith). But that’s another article.

McNabb and Young are simply the most of egregious unforgiveable examples in a system of white quarterback privilege.

JaMarcus Russell

JaMarcus Russell

(Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

GO TELL JAMARCUS RUSSELL

At the start of his career. Fitz, a 7th-round pick, was granted more patience than a No. 1 overall pick. The first three seasons for Fitz and Russell reveal great similarity:

Ryan Fitzpatrick: 8-14-1 record with 67.7 rating

Jamarcus Russell: 7-18-1 record with 65.2 rating

Jamarcus was gone from the NFL after his third season despite the potential and promise of a No. 1 overall pick in a league that gave Ryan Leaf two extra shots to make good.

Russell was a QB pup at 24 when it was all over. He is three years younger than Fitz and wanted another NFL shot so bad, he said he would play for free.

Critics will say Russell is “fat,” Young is “a head case” or McNabb is “washed up.”

For Black QB’s, there is always a reason, always a label, always a stereotype.

Every black quarterback is one or two bad seasons away from the unemployment line.

To solely blame Fisher and Shanahan alone for sabotaging the careers of McNabb and Young is not accurate.

It is the blind faith by others in the opinions of Mike Shanahan and Jeff Fisher that sabotaged their career.

Faith by an good ol’ boy NFL coaches network. And faith by a largely complicit sports media that values “respected” white coaches over player performance.

White quarterback privilege is the rule.

Dear Fitz:

GO TELL GENO SMITH AND LESSER SKILLED BLACK QB’S

A nine-year study shows that African-American quarterbacks are at least twice as likely to be benched after a sub-par performance, as white quarterbacks. The study also shows teams improve more when they bench white QBs than Black QBs.

Translation: White privilege costs wins.

In 2010 and 2011, McNabb’s Washington and Viking replacements went 8-21. While in Tennessee, Vince Young went 30-17 to Kerry Collins’ 15-17 with the same exact team. The Titans have been perennial losers since Vince.

If a future Hall of Famer like McNabb, a proven winner like Young, or No. 1 pick like Russell can’t get a second good look, how on earth is an unfairly maligned 2nd-round pick like Geno Smith going to develop?

And just in case you weren’t “Keeping up with The Smiths”;

Career Starts:

Geno Smith: 11–18 record with 71.5 rating (2 seasons)

Alex Smith: 11-19 record with 63.5 rating (3 seasons)

Yes, Geno outperformed the early careers of Alex Smith AND Fitzpatrick, while rushing for 604 yards and seven TDs. Yet even prior to his injury, Geno obituaries replaced this sensible question:

“How might Geno grow in that third pivotal season for QB’s while having a No. 1 receiver like Brandon Marshall for the very first time?”

Shouldn’t we want to answer this question before dismissing Geno quicker than the Texans threw $72 million at Brock Osweiler?

Like Geno, Brock’s career is also based on a powerful narrative: white potential.

Ryan Fitzpatrick lasts just one season with the Houston Texans.

Ryan Fitzpatrick lasts just one season with the Houston Texans.

(Al Bello/Getty Images)

DEAR FITZ

Which brings us back to the incredible whiteness of Fitz’s pre-Jets career and “six teams”:

0-3: Rams 2005

4-7-1: Bengals 2008

4-4: Bills 2009

4-9: Bills 2010

6-10: Bills 2011

6-10: Bills 2012

3-6: Titans 2013

6-6; Texans 2014

10-6: Jets 2015

No Black QB can ever pull this string of failure off. Or even half of it.

Or even just that Buffalo stretch. Tyrod Taylor just ain’t getting that line of credit.

Dear Fitz, despite your Harvard education, here is what you have been missing:

Every time a front office or coach stopped believing in you, another organization stepped up and did.

That’s your greatest NFL privilege – a distinctly white quarterback privilege.

Your privilege not to be stigmatized league-wide; not to be humiliated mid-game or post-game; or have your career end in 2011; or even 2009.

Ryan Fitzpatrick should take the time to think about his comments and how wrong he is.

Ryan Fitzpatrick should take the time to think about his comments and how wrong he is.

(Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Your privilege is receiving great patience from coaches Geno’s career would never see – even before Sunday’s injury.

Your privilege, despite a league worst passer rating, is to have a divisive public outburst as you did Sunday, and not be labeled a selfish malcontent – a staple for Black athletes.

Your privilege is having a “human” reaction, and not being punished for it.

Your privilege is making $12 million more dollars in 2016 than a younger Vince Young will ever see. Perhaps you should write him a check.

Your privilege is being treated with more dignity and respect than an all-time great like McNabb.

Your privilege is merely existing in the NFL unlike many never-developed black quarterbacks plying their trade in Canada or Arena football.

Your season last year was remarkable.

But don’t call it a comeback – it was a privilege.

It’s time that you check it.

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Source: NY Daily News Headlines Sports News

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