Following a standout college carer at Harvard, Ryan Fitzpatrick was drafted in the 7th round (250th overall) by the St. Louis Rams during his Ivy League career, Fitzpatrick completed 384 of 641 passes (59.9 percent) for 5,234 yards, 39 touchdowns and 15 interceptions while also rushing for 1,487 yards with 16 scores on 365 carries.
However, it wasn't until Fitz was traded to Cincinnati in 2007 that his career would really begin to take off. The Bengals got Fitzpatrick for a 7th-round pick in the 2008 draft, a pick that later became San Diego State receiver Brett Swain, who has 8 career receptions for 87 yards, no scores and last played in the NFL in 2011.
Following a year on the bench behind Carson Palmer, Fitz became restricted free agent in the 2008 offseason, but signed his one-year tender offer from the Bengals.
Then came that fateful day: September 28, 2008 against the Cleveland Browns. This is a day I will personally never forget, and not for anything good that happen.
Walking through Fountain Square in Cincinnati on a beautiful Sunday, my dad and I were getting a bite to eat before heading to PBS to watch the 0-3 Bengals take on the 0-3 Browns.
Riveting stuff, but we both knew (or at least thought) the Bengals had enough talent to rally and possibly get to 8-8 or maybe even 9-7.
That is, until we ventured into a restaurant/brewery named Rock Bottom.
Oh, the painful irony.
As we entered the restaurant, we caught a TV with ESPN on just as reports came in that Palmer wasn't going to start that day, leaving Ryan Fitzpatrick to get he nod in his place.
"Who!?," we both asked. Little did we realize, the Bengals had just hit rock bottom.
The Bengals lost that day, but not because of a lack of effort from Fitzpatrick, who was not only the leading passer that day (against the mighty Derek Anderson), but also the Bengals' leading rusher in a 20–12 loss. The play that probably sums up the loss, and the season the most was Fitzpatrick firing a deep throw for tight end Reggie Kelly down the field, but was intercepted. We walked out of PBS that day realizing the team had hit rock bottom, and we were about to endure a terrible season.
Alas, Fitz would go on to start 12 games that year, and would go on to complete 59% of his passes while throwing 8 TDs and 9 interceptions and finish the year with a 70 QB rating. That helped the Bengals finish a woeful 4-11-1, their worst record since going 2-14 in 2002.
However, Fitz did do well enough to help the Bengals go 4-7-1 in his starts (Palmer went 0-4 in his) while ranking third in rushing yards among NFL quarterbacks that year, finishing behind Tyler Thigpen and David Garrard.
Not exactly a glorious list to be part of. Ultimately, Fitz left that offseason to sign with the Buffalo Bills, where he would later become their full-time starter.
It seems like a forgettable and brief career in Cincinnati for Fitzpatrick, but what's forgotten of his tenure was the three-game winning streak he led the team on to end the '08 season.
Sitting at 1-11-1, it looked as though the Bengals were posed for a top-three pick, but there was no chance they weren't drafting somewhere in the top five.
Not so fast. Fitzpatrick helped the Bengals win their final three games of the year, going from potentially the No. 2 pick to selecting at No. 6, where they landed a franchise right tackle in Andre Smith.
How big was that? Just look at who the Bengals could have potentially selected had they drafted in the top five:
Matthew Stafford has had a fine career for the Lions, but Jason Smith, Aaron Curry and Mark Sanchez have been massive busts (Curry and Smith are out of the NFL). Tyson Jackson has been good, but nowhere close to being worthy of a top-five pick.
Only Big Smitty was worthy of where he was selected, and Fitzpatrick helping keep the Bengals out of position to draft those other guys ultimately saved them from a potentially devastating pick they could have made.