Why is Peyton Manning better than – Ryan Fitzpatrick? Silly question? Let’s consider.
Manning is Manning for four reasons:
- He is smart. Certainly not Harvard smart (Wonderlic score of 28), but smart.
- He is mentally quick. He reads the defensive alignment, makes his decisions on the play call (“Omaha,” etc.), runs through his progressions as the play unfolds, selects his target receiver, and makes the throw, all at warp speed.
- He is well-informed. He knows the offense better than his coach does. Of course, that is because, since his first year at Indy, Manning IS the coach, so far as the offense is concerned. He learned it, mastered it, runs it.
- He out-works every other player in football. He practices year-round, mostly with his receivers, individually. Once he declares a receiver ready to start on his team, that receiver knows that on any given play, if he runs his reads and his routes correctly and Manning elects to throw to him, the ball will be placed in his hands. And Manning knows that if he makes a good throw to a particular spot on the field, the receiver will arrive at that spot at the right time.
Yes, his mechanics are excellent (he practices them endlessly), and he throws a decent ball, but he is not particularly quick on his feet – either at escaping the rush or at scrambling for yards. (He once had decent speed but now he is slower and is no Roethlisberger to tackle.) He throws a relatively tight spiral, but if you watched his 40-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas in the 3rd quarter of the Broncos/49ers game Sunday, you saw that Manning had to throw very hard in order to throw a soft, lofted pass of no more than 40 yards in the air – he does not have a rocket arm.
Now, why is Ryan Fitzpatrick Ryan Fitzpatrick? The answer is a bit more complicated, there is a lot more to it than just, “Isn’t that obvious?” Consider:
- He actually IS Harvard smart. Not pretty smart, really smart. (Wonderlic 48, highest score ever by an NFL QB.)
- There is probably no way to know just how mentally quick he is, until he gets to spend a fair amount of time with a decent team under a decent coach. So far, he has not had that kind of situation. Even Manning was not Manning for quite a while, in the beginning.
- As for the well-informed part and the hard-work part, same answer – time will tell, and first season with a new team and a totally new coaching staff is not exactly the best lab for this experiment.
- It is not at all clear that his arm is inferior to Manning’s, especially at this time – Yes, he is supposedly weak on the long ball, but, while he is not John Elway or Aaron Rogers strong, he actually can throw the ball 40 or 50 yards with accuracy, as he has done on a couple of occasions with the Texans this year. Bear in mind, it is harder to be accurate on the long ball if you are not totally in-sync with your receivers (as with his new team this year, the Texans) or if your receivers stink (as with just about all his former teams), or if the whole team stinks.
- By the way, Fitzpatrick, though 1% shorter than Manning (6’2”, vs 6’5”), is strong, durable, and still very quick on his feet, a good scrambler. Also by the way, Fitzpatrick threw for 39 TDs vs a mere 15 interceptions at Harvard. OK, OK, I get it on that one.
The reason the Texans picked Fitzpatrick this year are obvious: Manning, Brady, Rogers, Kaepernick, Wilson, Rivers, Luck, Ryan, Newton, Brees, and even Cutler were not available, and taking Bortles/Bridgewater/Johnny F, even if any would have been a long-term upgrade over Fitz, would have meant a much longer learning curve than with Fitzpatrick. No, the intriguing question about Fitzpatrick and his new coach and team is this: Is the coach good enough, is the team good enough, is Fitzpatrick a hard enough worker and possessed of enough mental quickness, to allow Fitzpatrick to prove himself a better QB than he was with his previous NFL teams? My heart, my fan’s emotion, says Yes. My experience says he will be better than he ever was before, but he will never be a Manning because it is unlikely that he will be as driven as Manning to master his craft.