FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Tom Brady isn’t the only “elite” quarterback in the AFC East, according to Brandon Marshall.
The Jets receiver defended his quarterback Tuesday, saying that Ryan Fitzpatrick is in the same category as New England’s future Hall of Famer.
“He’s elite in my eyes,” Marshall said in an interview with Newsday before heading into the facility after practice.
“To me, it’s all about what have you done for me lately?” said Marshall, who also called Fitzpatrick “elite” during an interview with ESPN earlier in the day. “And when you look at what he did last year, he won 10 games, 31 touchdowns and he got the ball late — second week of camp (after Geno Smith was injured).”
Fitzpatrick had a career year, setting a franchise record for TD passes as the Jets went 10-6. But they fell one win shy of making the playoffs after losing to Buffalo in Week 17.
Nevertheless, Marshall believes he deserves to be in the “elite” quarterbacks discussion. “Absolutely,” he said.
Told that his comments undoubtedly will draw criticism, Marshall lauded Fitzpatrick even more: “I understand what it takes to be a successful quarterback and an elite quarterback in this league.
“He did it last year and I think if he does it this year — which he will — people will start respecting him a little more. When you’ve gone through 10 years bouncing around, not really having a lot of success, never made the playoffs, it’s hard for people to understand your worth and your value. But I know what this guy is capable of.“
Fitzpatrick, who turns 34 in November, is on his sixth team in 12 seasons, with a record of 43-61-1. But his teammates fully bought into him during his career resurgence last season.
“And a lot of times, we put so much emphasis — too much emphasis — on physical,” Marshall said. “He can’t throw 80 yards. He’s not going to throw a 50-yard out-in cut on a rope. It’s just not going to happen. But what he does in other areas makes up for what he doesn’t have, maybe, in arm strength.”
The timing of Marshall’s “elite” comments could have been better, though.
The Jets’ offense as a whole had a sloppy afternoon. So bad, in fact, that Marshall punted a football in frustration over the stands — and the heads of several youth football players who were invited to watch practice — after running back Dominique Williams dropped a pass.
“That one didn’t go very far,” Marshall joked. “Almost got sued. It barely went over the stands. I saw a lady (shield her head). That wasn’t good.”
Todd Bowles brushed off the incident as “no big deal,” joking: “If we need a second punter, we might just bring him back there and pooch one.”
Marshall admitted he averages an angry punt in practice “every five or six weeks,” but he “may have overreacted” Tuesday because it’s only the fifth practice of camp.
“It’s OK sometimes to show a little emotion,” he said. “Sometimes you need that, to show people it’s not acceptable to come out and practice like that.”
When practice ended, Fitzpatrick gathered the receivers to break down the areas that still need improvement.
“That’s where you gain your respect for your quarterback,” Marshall said. “When he’s able to rally the troop, galvanize the troop and say, ‘Look. Stay together. It’s OK.’ ”