Longtime NFL quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick recently announced his retirement after 17 seasons in the league. Fitzpatrick became known more for his ability to secure a new contract than for his knack for throwing away old pigskin. Fitzmagic earned over $82 million during its NFL career. One that many would say was average at best. Still, he never really struggled to find nice paycheck after nice paycheck.
Nobody’s saying Fitz didn’t have his moments, but he never even bowled pro. Fitzpatrick has never appeared in the playoffs, even once in 17 years in the NFL. Not even once. He was never selected to the Pro Bowl, not even as a substitute. But he managed to rake in over $80 million as an average talent. Compared to other similar QBs, Fitzpatrick has done very well in NFL earnings. Maybe all hope is not lost for Baker Mayfield.
Take a QB like Tyrod Taylor of the New York Giants. He’s been in the league for a decade now and had a pretty decent career. Taylor was a late pick (sixth round), like Fitzgerald (seventh), and he was more successful than Fitzpatrick. Taylor had stints with six teams before his 12th season in the NFL, just as journeyman Fitzpatrick found himself playing for nine franchises. Even with Taylor having more career success than Fitzpatrick, the earned salary gap for these players isn’t that wide.
Fitzpatrick’s $82 million-plus averages just over $4.8 million a year. Taylor’s earned salary is over 59 million dollars in 11 years and averages about $5.4 million during this time. One player was a Pro Bowler and led a team to the playoffs, while the other accomplished neither. Although the salaries are similar among these players, the opportunities on the pitch have not been as equal.
In his first 11 NFL seasons, Fitzpatrick racked up 105 starts under center. On the other hand, Taylor has started 53 games for NFL teams over the same number of years. Of course, one could argue that Taylor got paid more for less work. But the argument can also be made that Fitzpatrick received twice as many opportunities with less to show, and still earned roughly the same amount of money on average as Taylor.
It’s no secret that black QBs in the NFL have always had to work harder to achieve the same recognition and fame as their white counterparts. And I would even say that Taylor is a bit of an anomaly when it comes to some other black QBs. If you’re not a star like Lamar Jackson, Michael Vick, Cam Newton, or Russell Wilson, you usually don’t stay average or above average for long. Rodney Peete and Charlie Batch would be the exceptions for black QBs years ago.
While players like Vince Young, Daunte Culpepper and Robert Griffin III had some success, they didn’t hang on for too long once their talents waned. All three have made at least one Pro Bowl and at least one playoff appearance. young and Griffin even won Rookie of the Year. Now, everyone has their own reasons, and sometimes injuries were involved, but other than that, the league doesn’t check older black QBs at some point.
Meanwhile, Fitzpatrick, Josh McCown and Jeff Georges of the world are allowed to gamble forever, being barely decent. David Carr extended his career to 10 years when he probably should have been done after five years. And that list of mediocre white QBs with substantial careers goes on and on. Church Cousins feel like another one that already lasts about a decade and will probably last another half decade at least being as average as it wants.
As for Mr. Fitzpatrick, I wouldn’t say it was a great career; I would say it’s luck. He was right in the middle for the most part, but he was consistent. He can sometimes excite you, but more often frustrate you if you support one of the teams he led. One thing is certain. Being an average white QB in the NFL can pay off very well for a long time.