Fitzpatrick didn’t compile a Hall of Fame career, but he certainly made it worth watching, both on and off the field. Fitzpatrick threw a touchdown pass to 62 different players in his career, coming in behind a trio of passers (Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Vinny Testaverde) who have thrown a touchdown pass to more than 62 different players in NFL history. He became known for authoring thrilling finishes, no matter for which team he was playing, and the lone disappointment came with the territory he didn’t reach: the postseason. Fitzpatrick’s 34,990 passing yards are the most in NFL history by a player who never played in a playoff game, and stand as the 32nd most in league history.
Still, considering where he started, Fitzpatrick outperformed his odds by a wide margin. He owns the most career passing yards among all quarterbacks drafted in the seventh round of later in the common draft era, outperforming 1977 10th-rounder Steve DeBerg by 749 yards and standing well ahead of Super Bowl XXXVII champion Brad Johnson. Fitzpatrick is the only quarterback in NFL history to win a game with seven or more different teams (Miami, Tampa Bay, New York Jets, Buffalo, Houston, Cincinnati, Tennessee). He is also tied to the seventh-most career seasons by a quarterback since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger, trailing only Brady, Testaverde, Brett Favre, Dave Krieg and Ben Roethlisberger, and he’s one of only 30 quarterbacks in NFL history with 34,000- plus passing yards and 220-plus passing touchdowns in a career.
Fitzpatrick first saw the field as a result of an injury to Rams starter Marc Bulger and appeared in four games (three starts) in 2005, going 0-3 as a starter. He didn’t throw a pass in a game for the next two seasons, continuing a pedestrian career typical of a late selection, but 2008 is when things started to change for Fitzpatrick.
St. Louis traded Fitzpatrick to Cincinnati for a seventh-round pick in 2007, and the quarterback ended up starting 12 games for the Bengals in place of the injured Carson Palmer. He went 4-7-1 as a starter and impressed other NFL clubs enough to earn a three-year deal with the Buffalo Bills in 2009. Another injury to a starter – this time, Trent Edwards – opened the door for Fitzpatrick to prove his worth, and by the 2011 season, Fitzpatrick had done enough to earn the starting job in Buffalo for the 2011 and 2012 seasons.
Thus became the theme for Fitzpatrick’s career: Sign with a team, battle for a roster spot and eventually find his way to the field due to an injury to a starter. It happened in Tennessee in 2013 and Houston in 2014. In 2015, Fitzpatrick found some stability with the New York Jets (due in part to a locker room altercation that forced Geno Smith out of action), keying an exciting season that nearly saw New York reach the postseason. He remained for one more season before moving to Tampa, where he replaced injured starter Jameis Winston in six games (three starts) in 2017 and appeared in eight games (seven starts) in 2018, posting a 24-15 touchdown-to-interception ratio between 2017 and 2018.