Long-time NFL quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick recently announced his retirement after 17 seasons in the league. Fitzpatrick became known more for his ability to obtain a new contract rather than his knack for tossing the old pigskin. Fitzmagic earned upwards of $82 million during his NFL career. One that many would say was average at best. Yet, he never really struggled to locate handsome paycheck after handsome paycheck.
No one’s saying Fitz didn’t have his moments, but he never even made a pro bowl. Fitzpatrick never appeared in the postseason, even once in 17 years in the NFL. Not one time. He was never a Pro Bowl selection, not even as an alternate. But he’s been able to rake in over $80 million as an average talent. Compared to other similar QBs, Fitzpatrick did very well in NFL earnings. Maybe all hope isn’t 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 has had a pretty decent career. Taylor was a late pick (sixth round), like Fitzgerald (seventh), and he’s had more success than Fitzpatrick. Taylor has had stints with six teams heading into his 12th NFL season, much like the journeyman Fitzpatrick found himself playing for nine franchises. Even with Taylor having more success in his career than Fitzpatrick, the gap in earned salary for these players isn’t that wide.
Fitzpatrick’s $82 million-plus averages out to just over $4.8 mill per year. Taylor’s earned salary is over $59 million in 11 years and comes to an average of roughly $5.4 million in that time. One player has been a Pro Bowler and led a team to the playoffs, while the other has accomplished neither. While the salaries are similar among these players, the opportunity on the field hasn’t been as equal.
Through his first 11 NFL seasons, Fitzpatrick accumulated 105 starts under center. On the other hand, Taylor has started 53 games for NFL teams in the same number of years. Sure, you could say Taylor has been paid more for less work. But the argument can also be made that Fitzpatrick has received twice the opportunity with less to show for it, and still earned about the same amount of money on average as Taylor.
It’s no secret that black NFL QBs have always had to work harder to achieve the same recognition and acclaim 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 aren’t a star like Lamar Jackson, Michael Vick, Cam Newton, or Russell Wilson, you don’t usually hang around a long time being average to above average. 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 too much longer once their talents diminished. All three made at least one Pro Bowl and at least one playoff appearance. Young and Griffin even won Rookie of the Year honors. Now each has its own reasons, and sometimes injury was involved, but aside from that, the league isn’t checking for older black QBs at a certain point.
Meanwhile, Fitzpatrick, Josh McCown, and the Jeff Georges of the world are allowed to play forever, being barely decent. David Carr stretched his career out to 10 years when it probably should have been done after five. And that list of mediocre white QBs with substantial careers goes on and on. Kirk Cousins feels like another one that’s already been around a decade and will probably last another half-decade at least being as average as wants to be.
As for Mr. Fitzpatrick, I wouldn’t say it was a great career; I’d call it fortunate. He was right in the middle for most of it, but he was consistent. He could excite you at times but more often frustrate you if you happen to root for any of the teams he led. One thing is for sure. Being an average white QB in the NFL can pay really well for a long time.