Monday, December 28, 2020

Rooting Interest

Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for more yards in the fourth quarter Saturday night against the Las Vegas Raiders than he did in any game in his Harvard career against Princeton.

By the way, typing "Las Vegas" before "Raiders" still seems a bit strange.

If you missed the game (and TigerBlog did, as he was actually watching one-loss Liberty's thrilling OT win over previously unbeaten Coastal Carolina at the time), Fitzpatrick came off the bench to complete 9 of 13 passes for 182 yards and a touchdown while playing only in the final quarter. 

The Dolphins, led by Fitzpatrick, won 26-25 on a 44-yard field goal on the game's final play.

The FitzMagic part came on a 34-yard completion, which actually was more of a no-look heave, the no-look part courtesy of the fact that his facemask was being yanked as he threw, adding another 15 yards and setting up the game-winning kick.

Las Vegas coach Jon Gruden is being criticized for his decision in the final minute to not score a touchdown but instead have a running back intentionally stop at the 1 and then have a quarterback kneeldown to set up the go-ahead field goal with 19 seconds to play. The criticism is unfair, since Las Vegas (still weird) did the 100 percent correct thing in that situation.

Fitzpatrick had only 19 seconds to get his team, with no timeouts, in position for a field goal. It took the miraculous play - one nobody has ever seen before - to make that happen. The bottom line is that is that if you can't prevent a team from doing what Miami did in 19 seconds, then you deserve to lose. 

Josh Jacobs stopped himself at the 1 with 1:50 to play. Had he scored there, then Miami would have had all of that time to drive for the winning touchdown (though no timeouts). Instead, they got the ball back with 19 seconds left.

You're going to win so many more times doing what Gruden did than you will taking the touchdown.

The bottom line, people, is that the outcome does not make the decision right or wrong. It's the logic that originally goes into it.

Meanwhile, speaking of Fitzpatrick, he never threw for more than 172 yards in a game against Princeton before graduating in 2005. TB has two questions about him.

First, is he a Hall-of-Famer? Don't laugh. He is the only player to throw a touchdown pass for eight teams. He is 30th all-time in NFL history in career passing yards and 35th all-time in passing touchdowns. 

And he was also the first player in NFL history to throw for more than 400 yards in three straight games. Yes, often playing for a lot of teams is a sign that you were expendable by all of them, so it argues against greatness, but isn't there something different about him compared to other "journeymen?"

Second, is he the non-Princeton Ivy League athlete in one of the four major professional sports who is the easiest for Princeton fans to root for? TB is trying to think of someone else who fits that description. Jeremy Lin maybe? 

Is there someone else obvious?

TB has written this before, but the list shouldn't be very long. When you have such great, and longstanding rivalries, it's hard to dial up excitement for someone from the other side.

But this is a bit different. This isn't the same as rooting for the Ivy League champion in the NCAA tournament, though TB would love to know if most Princeton fans do that or don't do that. The results would be fascinating.

This isn't even rooting for an athlete on another Ivy team while they're still an Ivy athlete. This is rooting for someone who once was an archrival - and someone who has a big-time beard and seemingly big-time personality.

In the case of Fitzpatrick, he comes across as tough to root against, especially when he does things like he did Saturday night.

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