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One analyst thinks Fitzpatrick is key to WFT winning NFC East originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

When former Eagles Pro Bowler and current Philadelphia radio host Ike Reese joined the BMitch & Finlay show on Thursday, he didn’t let any biases influence who he thinks will win the NFC East this season. 

“Washington,” Reese said when NBC Sports Washington insider JP Finlay asked him who takes the 2021 divisional crown. “More than the Cowboys because I think Washington as of right now has the best coach in the division. And when I look at the brand of football that I like.”

An ex-linebacker who prides himself on the gritty things that may go under the radar to most – exemplified by him making the 2004 Pro Bowl as the NFC’s special teamer – Reese favors the culture and identity Washington head coach Ron Rivera has brought to FedEx Field over teams like Philadelphia or Dallas. 

“I think Washington has a team that’s sort of built like a team that I would like a team to be built,” Reese said. “You talk about physical, tough-minded football that aren’t going to abandon the running game, understand the importance of field position, those types of things, and you know just sound decision-making.”

For Reese, the Eagles are too tough to predict as the two most important positions of QB and head coach are unproven, Dallas’ defense isn’t up to par compared to Washington, and the New York Giants may be the furthest away. So for the Burgundy and Gold the biggest key to repeating as NFC East champions is simple.

“To me their biggest question is whether or not (quarterback Ryan) Fitzpatrick can hold up for 17 games and play well enough,” Reese said. “I like all the other parts: the passing game, the running game, the receivers, the defense I believe is going to be the best defense in the division by far. So I like Washington.” 

Indeed, that was the gamble Rivera and general manager Martin Mayhew were getting into when they brought Fitzpatrick in via free agency after another season of surpassing expectations in Miami, supplanting rookie Tua Tagovailoa multiple times over the course of the season. 

As a 38-year-old veteran who’s played just about every team in the NFL twice over, Reese wasn’t sure if he ever lined up against Washington’s new No. 14 before retiring in 2006. The way the schedule turned out, Reese didn’t play against Fitzpatrick, who was still learning his way in St. Louis with the Rams as a young quarterback.  

Fast forward 15 years and Fitzpatrick is learning his way in Washington, and given his track record Reese isn’t betting against the bearded pass thrower. 

“It’s because he’s an overachiever, a guy who doesn’t have all of the attributes that the franchise-mold quarterbacks have and he still found a way to put together a remarkable career for what his talents will allow him to have and do,” Reese said. 

But as a QB who’s played a full season slate just three times in his 16-year career, not to mention his ever-fluctuating QBR, Reese made sure to qualify why Fitzpatrick being the presumptive starter for Washington continues to make him an overachiever. 

“You’ve got to have realistic expectations,” Reese said. “And what I mean by that is Ryan Fitzpatrick if he’s able to start 12 games, he’s going to give you six or seven very good games, but you have to expect four or five bad games or at least three bad games and two so-so games. That’s just what he’s been.”

While Fitzpatrick’s consistency hasn’t been one of his strong suits since entering the league in 2005, his personality, especially since the tail end of his Buffalo Bills days, has always made him a fan favorite. 

“The thing that I like about him is his moxie, and that’s the type of stuff that rubs off on the other players,” Reese said. “It’s about what you ask him to do. If you don’t ask him to carry a team, I think he’ll be a more than adequate quarterback. But if you ask him to put the team on his back and throw for 300 yards every weekend, then you’re asking for trouble when you do that.”