New York Jets Ryan Fitzpatrick runs with the football in the half against the New England Patriots in week 12 of the NFL at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey on November 27, 2016. The Patriots defeated the Jets 22-17. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - New York Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick responded to his first benching of the season with a defiance that was interpreted by some as petulance. But Fitzpatrick was equal parts resigned and eloquent on Monday night, when he lost his job for the second and almost assuredly final time during the New York Jets' 41-10 loss to the Indianapolis Colts.
Head coach Todd Bowles benched Fitzpatrick in favor of Bryce Petty after Fitzpatrick was just 5 of 12 for 81 yards and an interception -- thrown on his final pass -- in the first half, when the Jets went into the locker room down 24-3.
Afterward, in a bit of weirdness unusual even by Jets standards, Bowles said the plan was always to have Petty start the final four games of the season and that, with the Colts blowing out the Jets, the Petty Era " ... just started a half early."
Barring injury to Petty, Fitzpatrick will not see the field again as a member of the Jets. After throwing a franchise-record 32 touchdowns in 2015 and keeping the Jets in the playoff race until the final weekend of that season, Fitzpatrick regressed to his journeyman form this year, during which he threw just 10 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.
"I didn't get it done, you know?" Fitzpatrick said.
His tone was much different Monday night than on Oct. 23, when Fitzpatrick opened the game as the second-string quarterback but finished it on the field after Geno Smith suffered a season-ending knee injury.
Following the 24-16 win over the Baltimore Ravens, Fitzpatrick said self-belief was the biggest thing an NFL player can possess and declared nobody else in the organization had faith in him.
"Because 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 then.
Now, though, his goal is to make sure Petty never feels alone. Fitzpatrick offered Petty a message of support not often relayed from a displaced starter to his replacement.
"I have to do my best to help him as much as I can," Fitzpatrick said. "There were so many people that helped me and playing quarterback, especially that quarterback group. You can't do it alone."
Fitzpatrick said he has grown close with Petty, perhaps because the former seventh-round draft pick who has played for six NFL teams and has a perpetual chip on his shoulder sees a little of himself in Petty, a fourth-round pick in 2015 who seemed likely to lose his roster spot when the Jets drafted Christian Hackenberg in the second round last spring.
Instead, Petty put together a pretty good preseason (481 yards, three touchdowns, one interception) and will now get the chance to prove he deserves to be considered a candidate to start for the Jets next season. Nobody will be rooting harder for Petty than his predecessor.
"It wasn't anything that was handed to him or given to him because he was a draft pick," Fitzpatrick said. "It's because he went out there and took it. This will be a great opportunity for him.
"It's going to be a difficult thing for me not to play, but it's not a difficult thing for me to be in there with a guy I really respect and works his butt off, trying to help him along the way to maybe try to kick-start his career."
--The Jets didn't change draft position with Monday's loss, but they moved closer to the fourth overall pick.
The Jets' loss, coupled with the Chicago Bears' 26-6 win over the San Francisco 49ers, left the two teams tied for the fourth-worst record in the NFL at 3-9. The Jets and Bears are "behind" the 0-12 Cleveland Browns, the 1-11 49ers and the 2-10 Jacksonville Jaguars.
At the moment, the Bears would draft fourth by virtue of going 3-9 against an easier schedule. The Bears' opponents are 72-72 thus far while the Jets' foes have gone 73-68-3 (a .518 winning percentage).
For better or for worse, the Jets will have a chance to move ahead of the Bears this week. While the Jets travel to San Francisco to face the aforementioned 49ers, the Bears will visit the NFC North-leading Detroit Lions.