Harvard education means little in NFL

Posted Nov. 02, 2010 @ 12:04 p.m.
Posted By Ron Borges

For Ryan Fitzpatrick, a Harvard education has been a handicap, which says more about the NFL than it does about Fitzpatrick.

In most work places, a Harvard diploma is a leg up. In the NFL it's a put-down, or at least a "sit-down'' — the latter being what Fitzpatrick has been hearing for six seasons. That he is not sitting at the moment may be a temporary condition despite the fact he is in the top 10 in the league in passer rating. Who in the NFL trusts a ­Harvard grad unless he's your salary-cap guy?

Apparently not even the man who pays him. Bills owner Ralph Wilson has told the world that finding a quarterback in the draft is his highest priority. He said that not long before Fitzpatrick diced up the Ravens for 382 yards and four touchdowns in what has become a familiar thing in Buffalo — defeat.

Fitzpatrick has been doing many things well since replacing Stanford-educated Trent ­Edwards after two dismal games, a job Fitzpatrick earned this summer but didn't get because the NFL always will take a Stanford man before a Harvard man. Pro football is the only place on earth in which coming from the Ivy League is a handicap.

Apparently this is true even after you've started five games and thrown more than twice as many TD passes (12) as interceptions (five). Such is the battle ­Fitzpatrick faces. Had he won the Heisman Trophy, he might have been a No. 1 pick, but he won the Asa S. Bushnell Cup, which made him the Ivy League MVP and a seventh-round pick of the Rams, the first of three teams to employ him.

It's true his record as a starter is 8-19-1 overall and 0-5 in 2010, but the Bills were 0-2 before he got under center and the offense wasn't as sharp as it has been since. Shouldn't someone have noticed?

Chiefs head coach Todd Haley noticed, well, something.

"He's clearly the best blocking quarterback in the league ... it's really, really impressive,'' Haley said.

The best blocking quarterback in the league? That's like being the best passing nose tackle in the league, isn't it?

Eventually Haley did say, "You can't do that with many quarterbacks in the league, so he is a dangerous player — he can hurt you with his feet, he can hurt you blocking and he can obviously hurt you throwing, as he showed the last couple weeks."

Obviously. Nice of Haley to get around to the throwing part, but is there any chance Tom Brady will ever be lauded for his blocking? No, but that's how it is for a Harvard man in the NFL. He's in the top 10 in the league in passer rating? Let's get somebody else.

If you look at Fitzpatrick's numbers and not his diploma, if you look at the way he has run Chan Gailey's offense and not his education, if you look on the field and not at his résumé and then hear this kind of stuff, one thing becomes clear: A lot of guys who work in the NFL couldn't get into Harvard.

"As a quarterback you're judged by wins and losses,'' Fitzpatrick says. "That's the way it goes. Nobody pays much attention to you when you're not winning games.''

True, but somebody in Buffalo should.


Ron Borges is a columnist for the Boston Herald.

This column was originally published in the current print edition of Pro Football Weekly, which also features a cover story on the unheralded Falcons, a look at Pete Carroll's makeover of the Seahawks, Nolan Nawrocki's preview of the top RB prospects for the 2011 NFL draft, and much more. You can purchase a copy at retail outlets everywhere, or go to PFWstore.com to order a print copy or an electronic PDF copy.