The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

A shirtless Ryan Fitzpatrick was roaring for the Bills during playoff win over Patriots

Ryan Fitzpatrick. coming off one season with Washington, previously spent four years with Buffalo in the longest stint of his much-traveled NFL career. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)
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When the Washington Football Team signed Ryan Fitzpatrick in March, fans could hope to see him roaring about a win this month in the NFL playoffs. That did indeed occur over the weekend, but Fitzpatrick’s boisterous reaction was to a victory by the Buffalo Bills over the visiting New England Patriots.

Fitzpatrick, 39, has not played for Washington since Week 1, when he suffered a hip injury that eventually led to season-ending surgery in December. A spokesman for Washington noted that, given his one-year deal with the team, Fitzpatrick is now a free agent. That won’t become official, though, until the NFL’s new year begins on March 16.

In the meantime, Fitzpatrick appears happy to serve as a Bills superfan. He played for the Bills from 2009-2012, making Buffalo one of nine stops the peripatetic quarterback has made in his 17-year career. But he stayed there the longest and has since made clear he retains a particular fondness for the experience.

In September 2020, while Fitzpatrick was starting for the division-rival Miami Dolphins, he was asked by ESPN to reveal his favorite NFL city.

“I’m gonna get in trouble if I answer that one … because my favorite NFL city is Buffalo,” Fitzpatrick replied.

During the NFL’s first weekend of postseason football, Fitzpatrick showed how much Buffalo meant to him. He sat in the stands Saturday evening at Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park, N.Y., and was moved to remove his shirt despite a reported temperature at kickoff of just 6º with subzero wind chills. It likely helped that the stadium has heaters built in that cast a red glow above certain sections.

Fitzpatrick wasn’t shirtless for the entire game, but by at least one account, he was happy to pose for photos with anyone who asked.

“From what I know of Fitz it’s fitting,” Bills Coach Sean McDermott said Monday. “I think it’s awesome. For a guy that’s been here and support the organization like that and be part of the environment, it’s pretty cool.”

It’s not the first time in recent months that a member of a Washington team has shown up to cheer in person for a different squad during the playoffs. The Nationals’ Juan Soto went to Dodger Stadium in October to support former teammates Max Scherzer and Trea Turner as they took on the St. Louis Cardinals in a wild-card game. Rather than going shirtless, Soto made a point of wearing a Scherzer No. 31 Nats jersey, and he used his front-row perch to exchange high-fives with his pals after Los Angeles got a walk-off win.

On Saturday, Fitzpatrick and most of the other fans in attendance also had plenty of reason to celebrate. The Bills performed like a team intent on getting two decades’ worth of revenge on the Patriots and New England Coach Bill Belichick in one game. Buffalo played almost flawlessly on offense, scoring touchdowns on seven straight possessions until it was time to kneel out the clock on a 47-17 victory.

Following Fitzpatrick’s injury this season, Taylor Heinicke took over as Washington’s starting quarterback. He held that role for the rest of the season, apart from a December loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in which Heinicke and backup Kyle Allen were unavailable because of NFL coronavirus protocols, resulting in an emergency start by Garrett Gilbert.

WFT Coach Ron Rivera told reporters last week that his organization will make an offseason priority of solving its uncertain situation at quarterback. That’s not an issue for the Bills, but with backup quarterback Mitchell Trubisky there on a one-year deal, they could soon be looking for a replacement.

If so, might the Bills look to bring back Fitzpatrick? To judge from Saturday’s game, the bearded veteran may relish an opportunity to cheer for Josh Allen and Co. from Buffalo’s sideline.