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The Redzone: Save Larry Fitz

Possibly the greatest receiver of his generation is being left to rot in the desert of Arizona. Here’s the sorry story of Larry Fitzgerald.

OVER THE COURSE of the 137 games of his NFL career, Larry Darnell Fitzgerald Jr. has caught 750 passes for 10,267 yards and 77 touchdowns. In his eight full seasons in the league, Fitzgerald has gone over 1,400 receiving yards four times and over 1,000 in another two. In 2006, when he played just 13 games, Fitzgerald still managed 946 yards and six touchdowns.

Indeed, there is only one season in Fitzgerald’s career when he has played a full 16 game schedule and failed to record more than 1,000 yards. However, 2004, his rookie year, still saw him gain 780 receiving yards and eight touchdowns on just 58 receptions.

Last night, in the 58-0 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, Fitzgerald recorded just one reception for two yards. Since the Cardinals bye week four games ago, he has just six receptions for 67 yards and no touchdowns. Because of this run, Fitzgerald is in line for his worst year statistically since 2004 and all this in a season when Bill Belichick suggested he might just be the best receiver to ever play the game.

Fitzgerald sits alongside Michael Floyd on the bench during last night’s humiliating defeat. Stephen Brashear/AP/Press Association Images

Now, of course, it’s almost impossible to compare receivers of different eras simply because the game is in a constant state of flux and while, right now, the passing game is king, who is to say that the 2019 draft won’t contain eight running backs in the first round as defences and offences adapt?

That said, statistics can be a useful guide in judging a player’s place among the elite.

Before this season only two receivers had averaged more yards per game in the history of the NFL than Fitzgerald. They were Andre Johnson (79.5 ypg) and Calvin Johnson (77.7 ypg). While both Johnson’s are now above 80 ypg, Fitzgerald’s season has been so bad he has actually slipped behind Jerry Rice in the all-time list, falling from 77.4 ypg to 74.9.

Of course, unlike Messrs Johnson, Johnson and Rice, Fitzgerald hasn’t had the benefit of working with a good quarterback. Indeed only one, Kurt Warner, could you even begin to describe as being above average. Warner and Fitzgerald connected 345 times for over 4,500 yards and 39 touchdowns and, together, the pair dragged the Cardinals to Super Bowl XLIII just three years ago.

All told, Fitzgerald has received passes from 13 quarterbacks during his time with the Cardinals. Some of them such as Warner, Matt Leinart, Derek Anderson, Josh McCown, Kevin Kolb, John Skelton and Ryan Lindley – both of whom played last night – will be familiar to most NFL fans. Others like Shaun King, John Navarre, Rich Bartell, Max Hall, Tim Rattay and Brian St. Pierre may not.

Not fair

If you consider that Eli Manning, Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger have, when fit, played almost every snap for their teams since being selected in the 2004 draft alongside Fitzgerald, you get some sense of the Cardinals receiver’s woes.

It’s not fair to him, of course, but imagine the number of Super Bowl rings Larry Fitzgerald would have had he been paired with a Peyton Manning or Tom Brady for the last eight years. Given that we are entering one of the worst quarterback drafts in recent memory, baring a blockbuster trade, it doesn’t look like things will be improving for Fitzgerald in Arizona any time soon.

Indeed, just when you think things can’t get any worse for Fitzgerald, he now has Vince Young, yes, 51 career interceptions to just 46 touchdowns Vince Young, tweeting him to say he’d like to be quarterback number 14.

A lot of NFL fans love Larry Fitzgerald. Such is the concern for the receiver from fans around the league, he has been the subject of a #savelarryfitz campaign on Twitter.

Unfortunately, fans are also very fickle and when the time comes to ascertain Fitzgerald’s place in the pantheon of greats, some will look to the number of rings he has and not the number of terrible quarterbacks he was forced to play alongside.

But look at it this way; last season, Fitzgerald managed over 1,400 yards on just 80 receptions. That’s a phenomenal 88.2 yards per game and 17.6 yards per catch and he did it with John Skelton and Kevin Kolb sharing QB duties. Now imagine what he’d have achieved with an actual quarterback.

That should always be the asterisk on Fitzgerald’s career.

Week 14 results

Denver Broncos 26 @ Oakland Raiders 13
St. Louis Rams 15 @ Buffalo Bills 12
Atlanta Falcons 20 @ Carolina Panthers 30
Dallas Cowboys 20 @ Cincinnati Bengals 19
Kansas City Chiefs 7 @ Cleveland Browns 30
Tennessee Titans 23@ Indianapolis Colts 27
New York Jets 17 @ Jacksonville Jaguars 10
Chicago Bears 14 @ Minnesota Vikings 21
San Diego Chargers 34 @ Pittsburgh Steelers 24
Philadelphia Eagles 23 @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers 21
Baltimore Ravens 28 @ Washington Redskins 31
Miami Dolphins 13 @ San Francisco 49ers 27
New Orleans Saints 27 @ New York Giants 52
Arizona Cardinals 0 @ Seattle Seahawks 58
Detroit Lions 20 @ Green Bay Packers 27

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About the author:

Steve O'Rourke

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