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Mike Martz insists Ryan Fitzpatrick is playoff-caliber


By Tim Graham

It's a difficult matter for fans to reconcile when they want to buy into their team's playoff hopes but can't buy into their quarterback.

That's an issue for Buffalo Bills supporters and their skepticism of Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Amid all the fan excitement from signing pass-rushers Mario Williams and Mark Anderson, their affinity for players such as running back Fred Jackson, center Eric Wood and defensive tackle Kyle Williams and their seeming satisfaction with this year's draft class, fans tap the brakes at the mention of Fitzpatrick.

One of Fitzpatrick's biggest advocates takes an opposite approach. Mike Martz claims Fitzpatrick is a playoff-caliber quarterback but is taking a wait-and-see approach to the rest of the team.

"He's certainly plenty good enough to get them to the playoffs," Martz told me last week, "but he obviously can't do it by himself.

"Without the quarterback, you have no chance, and they have the quarterback that can get them to the playoffs. There's no question about that. Are they good enough in the other areas to help him? I really don't know."

Martz was the St. Louis Rams head coach in 2005, when they drafted Fitzpatrick in the seventh round out of Harvard.

Martz, who won a Super Bowl ring as Rams offensive coordinator and got them back to the Super Bowl as head coach, was fired after five games that year, but never lost his affinity for Fitzpatrick.

"The way he can react and digest is very special," Martz said. "He has an elite ability -- rare I would say.

"The things that are really important to me, I would give him high marks. People just don't realize how competitive he really is and how important it is to him to win. He's soft-spoken, and that makes his personality misleading.

"He's the best competitor on the field. You can put that in granite, and that translates into leadership. He's a tough guy, smart ... All those things that are important to being a quarterback, he's got them."

(Photo: David Duprey/Associated Press)

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About Press Coverage

Tim Graham

Tim Graham

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

@ByTimGraham |

Mark Gaughan

Mark Gaughan

Buffalo native Mark Gaughan started working at The News in 1980 and has been covering the Bills exclusively since 1992. He is a former president of the Pro Football Writers of America, and he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee.

@gggaughan |

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida. He writes a weekly Fantasy column in addition to his beat writing duties.

@JaySkurski |