It's too late to reverse the curse of Ryan Fitzpatrick, which has officially befallen the Bucs.
Wherever Fitzpatrick shows up, the starting quarterback will go down. Fitzpatrick will get to experience the joy of hex again Sunday against his former New York Jets team when he plays in place of injured starter Jameis Winston, who has been shut down for at least two weeks with a shoulder sprain.
"It's crazy that it's happened pretty much where ever I have been but, you know, last year was a crazy year as well,'' Fitzpatrick said Thursday. "I got benched a few times but had to go back in the lineup because of injury. It seems to happen over and over again, but obviously, just some crazy coincidence.''
Fitzpatrick has played for seven NFL teams during an outstanding 13-year career. But 13 isn't the only season that's been unlucky for his teammates.
Remarkably, Fitzpatrick has played at least half of his team's games for nine straight seasons. By comparison, consider the only other quarterbacks to do that – Eli Manning, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, Aaron Rodgers, Philip Rivers, Joe Flacco and Matt Ryan.
It began during his rookie year with the St. Louis Rams when he entered the lineup after Marc Bulger went down with a shoulder injury. The jinx has followed Fitzpatrick to every team. In 2005, the Bengals Carson Palmer missed 12 games with an elbow injury. In '09, the Bills' Trent Edwards missed half the season after suffering a concussion. Jake Locker had a foot injury with the Titans in '13. The next year, Ryan Mallett had a pectoral muscle injury with the Texans.
It really got weird his last two seasons with the Jets. Geno Smith got punched in the face by a teammate and Fitzpatrick led them to a 10-6 record, narrowly missing the playoffs. After being benched last season, he was forced to return as the starter when Smith hurt his knee and Bryce Petty suffered a shoulder injury.
Fitzpatrick said he thought seriously about retirement after last season before signing with the Bucs and wasn't sure he did the right thing until five weeks into the season.
"I was pretty close, which was a really hard thing for me just because I enjoy playing so much, I enjoy being around it so much,'' Fitzpatrick said. "So, I got a call from (Bucs coach) Dirk (Koetter) and we talked and I ended up signing here and really I don't think it was until I was in that Arizona game in the second half playing that I maybe realized how much I would've missed it if I didn't play. That was probably the moment if you're looking for one of me being reassured I made the right decision.''
Fitzpatrick entered the game in the second quarter against Arizona trailing 24-0. With his family and friends at the game, he passed for 290 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions in a 38-33 loss to the Cardinals.
Fitzpatrick took over last week in a 30-10 loss to the Saints when Winston was forced to leave the game after taking another hit on his shoulder.
Ironically, Fitzpatrick will make his first start with the Bucs – and his 117th overall – against the Jets. What's more, it comes against Josh McCown, a quarterback who shares similar nomadic traits, having played for seven different teams including the Bucs.
"There's a reason they've been kept around so long because one, they're fantastic football players,'' Bucs offensive coordinator Todd Monken said. "I mean, you play that long in the NFL at the highest level and get paid what you get paid, those guys are great football players. And it's fun to see when those guys get opportunities and play well, like Ryan has and so has Josh.''
Fitz-magic, as he was known in New York, still has some tricks left. And maybe a little black magic as well.