Ryan Fitzpatrick understands football better than a chunk of the younger quarterbacks playing the game today. It's what a Harvard education and a 16-year career will give you.
That knowledge is part of the package that head coach Ron Rivera and the Washington Football Team expected they were getting when they signed Fitzpatrick to a deal in March. Sure, they wanted him to use his gunslinger playing style to make the offense more explosive, but they also hoped to take advantage of his other famous attribute, which is helping younger players succeed.
It's safe to say Rivera has been happy with the results so far, particularly among the wide receivers.
"He can share his wisdom with these types of guys," Rivera told Senior Vice President of Media and Content Julie Donaldson.
Fitzpatrick has already given a snippet of insight into how he tries to work with his pass-catchers. Every receiver is a little different in terms of how they run routes and when they expect the ball. It's similar for quarterbacks as well; each one has a different expectation for when they want to release the ball as a receiver's route progresses. The only way to connect that is by building strong trust and communication.
"Part of it is, for me at least, that I am going to put it in the spot I believe it needs to be," Fitzpatrick said at the start of OTAs. "That is going to result early on in some incompletions and then we can talk about why I threw it where I did."
It's nice to hear those words from a quarterback; it's even better to see it happen. There have been several examples of it, but one of Rivera's favorites was when Fitzpatrick was working with Dyami Brown on a pivot route. Brown was stopping short of where he was supposed to be, which forced Fitzpatrick to throw the ball on a different trajectory.
When Brown came back to huddle, Rivera heard Fitzpatrick say to him, "Listen, when you're going to run that route and you're going to work away from that guy, keep going because I'm gonna try to throw you away from him and create the opening for you to catch and keep going."
"Oh, okay I got it," Brown replied, and it worked exactly how Fitzpatrick said it would the next time Brown ran the route. All Fitzpatrick had to do was give Brown a thumbs up for him to know he had done it the right way.
"The kid was really fired up that he had done it right, and you can see what an experienced guy can do and what he means for young players," Rivera said.
Fitzpatrick's experience is not just helpful for rookies trying to make their first imprint on a team; it's also a valuable tool players like Terry McLaurin can use to take the next step in their development.
McLaurin has been trending up since Washington drafted him in the third round. He had one of the most productive rookie seasons in franchise history and followed that up with a 1,000-yard performance in 2020. The coaches expect him to continue that path, and consistency plays a role in that. Getting a second 1,000-yard season is more difficult than getting the first, receivers coach Drew Terrell said, so he wants McLaurin to "open his mind to new and improved ways to get better."
Once again, Fitzpatrick is there to help.
"He's a very consistent passer. He understands throwing guys open. He understands throwing away from leverage," Rivera said. "And again, let's not forget that Terry's only going into his third season. There's a lot of room for him to grow, so he'll really work with Terry and help him, I believe."
The offense is expected to make strides in a second season under offensive coordinator Scott Turner. Part of that optimism stems from the players having more experience in the scheme, but it also comes from Fitzpatrick and all the new additions that Washington brought in this offseason. There are plenty of young players who have a lot to learn, but if Fitzpatrick can help speed that process along, he's more than willing to do it.
"I want to be as helpful as I can," Fitzpatrick told Donaldson in March. "I want to make as big of an impact as I can on all their careers, whether it's on the field or off. Whether it's a conversation or the way they run a route, just making sure that I get to know these guys inside and out. It's part of the fun for me [to be] still playing...bringing the best out in all those different guys."