After a sucker punch from now ex-teammate IK Enemkpali broke Smith’s jaw in a locker room altercation, there will be yet another new quarterback in the AFC East -- and he will be a familiar face to the rest of the division.
Here’s what you need to know about Fitzpatrick:
He might have eventually started for the Jets, anyway: Smith was having a strong training camp and was the Jets’ starter entering this season, but that doesn’t mean Fitzpatrick was out of the equation. The Jets’ long-term outlook at quarterback was still unsettled and Fitzpatrick was expected to be an option to start if Smith struggled through the early part of the season. Smith ended last season with a 44.3 QBR, ranked 26th among 33 qualifying NFL quarterbacks.
Fitzpatrick and Chan Gailey have worked together before: Fitzpatrick’s best seasons came when he started for the Buffalo Bills with current Jets offensive coordinator Chan Gailey as his head coach. Fitzpatrick’s loose playing style and Gailey’s passing-based, spread offense resulted in Fitzpatrick throwing for 3,832 yards and 24 touchdowns in 2011, when the Bills started the season 4-2. Fitzpatrick earned a big contract extension in October 2011, but the move backfired for Buffalo. Fitzpatrick, an often reckless passer who was prone to interceptions, was released by the Bills after a 6-10 season in 2012.
He’s eight months removed from a broken leg: Fitzpatrick’s season ended when he broke his leg in a loss to the Indianapolis Colts last December. He went 6-6 as the Houston Texans’ starter and was traded to the Jets this past offseason.
He went to Harvard: Fitzpatrick is one of a small group of NFL players to hail from Harvard. Not surprisingly, his Wonderlic score reflects his education: he had a near-perfect score, but left one question on the test blank.
His beard lives on: Fitzpatrick is known for his bushy beard, which remained intact as the Jets began training camp last month. He still has a ways to go before it reaches Brett Keisel length, however.