Monday, October 15, 2012

SpongeBob may hold keys to Ryan Fitzpatrick's inaccuracies

Artist Unknown is an episode featuring that little yellow sponge, SpongeBob, taking an art class.

Not unlike Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, SpongeBob approaches "learning" art with glowing admiration for the teacher.

Early on the teacher, Squidward, introduces Spongebob to the class by saying, "Art is not all fun and games, it's a lot of hard work" as he plops a ton of "art" books on the teachers desk. Then follows that up by having SpongeBob repeat, "I have no talent."

Despite displaying an natural talent that leads to a perfect statue of David, Squidward insists "you gotta go by the book, follow the rules."

It's not that Fitzpatrick has been perfect throughout his football career, nor is it that he has the tools to pull off a Aaron Rogers-like 6 TD, 0 INT, 133QB rating, long-ball performance. He can't.

But what he had shown over the past few seasons is that when he gets in a zone, he can dissect defenses and get the ball to the receivers. The deep throw is still a problem, but starting in 2009 his completion percentage has gone from 55.9% to 57.8% to 62.0% last season. Thus far he's back down to 57.9%.

Another truism about "Fitz" is that he cannot carry the team on his shoulders to victory ala Rogers, Peyton Manning or Tom Brady. There are a host of quarterbacks in this league who are in the same boat. And some of them like Alex Smith (49'ers,) Mark Sanchez (NY Jets) and Tony Romo (Dallas) are very similar to Fitz, but happen to be surrounded by and excellent team and/or excellent coaching staffs.

Fitz is what he is. We know that.

David Lee is touted as a "quarterback guru," and everyone in Buffalo, including Fitz and Head Coach Chan Gailey, were excited to have Lee iron out the wrinkles in Fitz's delivery to make him a better QB.

But, in the process, Lee seems to have gotten the 29yr. old to think too much nullifying any positives that the QB once had. Just like Squidward did with SpongeBob. And what's left is something worse than before.

Some allude to working on golf-swing mechanics and that often times things will get worse before they get better. But six games into the season Fitz still has trouble throwing the long ball and his throws to the outside are still weak, just like before. About the only thing to change is his short pass accuracy. During the last few weeks he's been off the mark way too much.

So, is QB guru David Lee actually harming Fitz? Is he thinking too much? The QB was asked those questions on the Howard Simon Show this morning and he did a little dance around the question. "The mechanics and fundamentals are so important," he said.

Fitz started to talk about how he's been throwing a certain way all of his life, alludes to his 65-plus completion percentage to start last season, then veers off the mechanics question by saying, "A lot of being a quarterback in the NFL is decision-making and confidence.

Simon asks him about "over thinking" to which Fitz replies, "I don't think so, I'll continue to look at it and work on it but when you get out there you just gotta go out there and play."

Which is something that seems to be eluding him at this point.

And when Simon asked about his confidence level, Fitz said it was fine and that there was a level of frustration to the point where he feels he's not playing anywhere near his capabilities.

Lee has stressed mechanics and fundamentals to a player who'd never had that before, not unlike SpongeBob. Any positives prior to this year seemed to have been nullified.

Has QB "guru" David Lee hurt Fitz by making him "go by the rules?"

There's a strong case to be made. 

How they approach the rest of the season remains to be seen, and the future of both Fitz and Gailey may be in the hands of the QB as he tries to balance the tools he's been given with what he's now being taught.

Not so sure they can continue on this path, but one thing's pretty much a given, should the team not improve, both Gailey and Lee could be out the door with Fitz not far behind.


In the six games (Bills record 3-3) prior to this writing, Fitz was a combined 106-183 (57.9%) 1510 yards (252 yards/game,) 12 TD, 8INT.
In the four games since (1-3):  96-130 (73.8%) 969 yards, (242 y/g,) 5TD, 2INT (of note:  both INT's, one vs. Tennesse, one at New England, were late in the game with the a win on the line. Both games ended up in losses.)

The question was posed to Fitz on the Howard Simon show as to whether David Lee and his teachings are working. Or whether he reverted back to his other self.

Fitz's response, "I know I had two games--the Jets game and the Patriots game--where I had seven interceptions. I think part of it is a change in my mindset a little bit, but the mechanics, I do feel like I've been able to feel consistent with some of the footwork and some of the stuff we've worked on and I feel like it has helped. But at the end of the day you just gotta go out there and produce plays by any means necessary. I definitely think I've been taking care of the ball better over the last five games."

In a follow up where Simon brings up the "changing the golf swing" analogy where there's so much in your head it messes you up.

Said Fitz, "I think as a quarterback in the NFL, your head is never clear. In terms of my mechanics, physically, I'm not putting too much thought into that. Whatever happens out there, however I'm reacting to things, that's just how it's gonna go. It's been positive. There's definitely some changes that have been made this off season that have stuck with me."

No ringing endorsement of Lee and his teachings, yet some (minimal?) changes taking affect.

Ryan Fitzpatrick is what he is and at his age, how many new tricks can you teach that "old" dog?

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