Why Miami Dolphins players love Ryan Fitzpatrick: 'He's the man'

MIAMI -- Ryan Fitzpatrick is used to being the other quarterback. For much of his NFL career, there has been a rush to replace Fitzpatrick with that team's expected franchise QB. His role with the 2020 Miami Dolphins is no different.

Headed into this season, Fitzpatrick embraced his self-described role as "placeholder" for 2020 first-round pick Tua Tagovailoa. But in true Fitzpatrick form, he's not ready to give up his place just yet, and he's showing it with his play. It's one reason why he flashes a wide smile when he thinks about the "bench Fitz" calls that reached 100 decibels last week.

"I've been called every name in the book," Fitzpatrick, 37, said. "People hate me, people love me depending on the week, but again just trying to stay steady and knowing that all that outside noise isn't the thing that's important."

Fitzpatrick's response to the outside noise was turning in a 99.1 QBR rating -- the best total QBR of any quarterback all season and tied for 18th best since at least 2006 -- in a dominant 43-17 win against the San Francisco 49ers. It was the exclamation point on what has been a solid season so far for Fitzpatrick, who ranks fifth in total QBR through five weeks.

Dolphins players and coaches couldn't be more ecstatic, because while Tagovailoa represents the franchise's future, they all love their present in Fitzpatrick.

There isn't a more respected player in Miami's locker room than the 2005 seventh-round pick by the St. Louis Rams. In an effort to describe why Fitzpatrick, who is nicknamed FitzMagic, is so beloved in Miami, ESPN has collected what players and coaches have been saying about their leader.

The top offensive weapons

Mike Gesicki, tight end: "He's the greatest teammate I've played with. He's always having fun. Just the things that he does on the field, the energy that he brings, and the confidence that he gives out to everybody else, it's contagious. Playing with him, the thing that makes him special is that he makes the guys around him better players. If I could play with him for the next 15 years, I would do it. He's the man. I love playing with him and he's helped me out a ton, so I'll always be appreciative of him."

Preston Williams, wide receiver: "He was piped up. The whole day -- flight, really even. Fitz is always ready. He comes ready to play every week. ... Like I said, he's always got that energy out there on the offense, so we feed off that."

The mentee and franchise QB

Tagovailoa: "Fitz is just a wholesome person. The way he is out on the field is the same way he is off the field. I don't think there's really a distinct change in who he is. I mean, what you see out there is really who Fitz is. He's a coach. He's a mentor on and off the field. But he's also a very, very family-oriented person. Very loving. Very caring for guys. And he's funny, too. He's really funny."

The protectors

Jesse Davis, right tackle: "He just brings energy. Everybody always comments on it, on how electric he can be and how he uplifts the whole squad, and even coaches. It's refreshing to play with him. He's out there getting us on correct assignments and watching him have fun throwing the ball and scoring touchdowns, it's just great."

Austin Jackson, left tackle: "He's a leader, he's strong, he loves the game and he loves to play ball. He's not scared of anything. It's kind of fun to play with a guy like that. Real important, too."

Ted Karras, center: "He's an extraordinary man. I love suiting up with him. ... I've learned so much from him and continue to do so every day."

The coaches

Brian Flores, coach: "He's a great teammate, and that goes far beyond what you guys see on the field. So that's their interactions in the locker room, outside of the building. ... On the field, you guys see his energy, his enthusiasm, his support for his teammates, his willingness to put his body on the line for his teammates.

"He brings a Pop Warner attitude where he just wants to play. ... That's infectious and other guys see that. He brings energy, he brings juice and guys feed off of it. That's been good. He's also been productive. At the end of the day, it's a production business. I think we all know that. If you can have energy and juice and be productive, [and if] guys feed off of it, then hopefully they're productive because of that same energy."

Chan Gailey, offensive coordinator: "I've been with Fitz a long time. We've had some great times together and we've had some bad times together. I think I have as much respect and I like him as much, if not more, than anybody I've ever coached. He's a great teammate, a great, great, great competitor, and he's a lot smarter than me.

"His leadership is unbelievable. His understanding of the game is right up there with the best. He understands not only what we're trying to do, but he understands what the defense is trying to do, and that gives any quarterback a leg up when they can do that. It wasn't necessarily that way our first year together in Buffalo, but he's gotten to the point the last six or seven years where that's been a real asset for him. His accuracy has improved since we were together last, and I think his knowledge is great. The other thing is he loves the game. He's a competitor. He wants to win, and when you have a competitor at quarterback, that goes a long way."