It seems like you can conjure up FitzMagic anytime you want on the NFL's endless stream of commercials and who knows how many times former Bengals quarterback (and Bills and Dolphins and …) Ryan Fitzpatrick appears before us Thursday night (8:15-Cincinnati's Channel 9 and Prime Video) in Baltimore when the Bengals and Ravens stage one of their death-defying AFC North acts.
Especially since Fitzpatrick and his former teammate who played for three of the Bengals' AFC North champs, Andrew Whitworth, are part of the Amazon crew calling the game at M&T Bank Stadium. On Tuesday, Fitzpatrick flew from Arizona, where he lives, to Los Angeles and met Whitworth at his home before they flew together to Baltimore Wednesday.
"Love it. Love the people I'm doing it with," Fitzpatrick said of the gig. "I like visiting all the cities we go into. Whit and I will walk a couple of miles through downtown the day of the game. Have some lunch, talk to the fans. It gives us a real good feel for the fan bases and what they're thinking."
Truth be told, FitzMagic is a devout believer in Bengals' current magician Joe Burrow.
"Joe Cool is what they call him, right?" Fitzpatrick asked Wednesday morning. "More than any quarterback in the league, he just oozes confidence. It's an amazing trait that he has. I'm not even around him and he makes me a believer every time I see him out there and his cool demeanor."
But you know who also has a brisk wind chill factor right now? Bengals Pro Bowl sacker Trey Hendrickson, left for Thursday's inactive list as he writhed on the Paycor Stadium field with hyperextended knee after the last play from scrimmage barely 72 hours before, wasn't even listed as questionable on Wednesday's injury report issued after a walkthrough. It estimated he would have gone full if there had been a practice.
The other three iffys, left end Sam Hubbard (ankle), and wide receivers Tee Higgins (hamstring) and Andrei Iosivas (knee) all were ruled out. Princeton's Iosivas is going to have to put on hold his bid to show in-person that he's the NFL's best Ivy Leaguer since FitzMagic was born in Harvard Yard nearly 20 years ago.
But as long as Burrow is here, Fitzpatrick says the Bengals have a shot.
"They are one of the three scariest teams in the AFC," Fitzpatrick said. "Kansas City, Baltimore, and Cincinnati, which is weird because they're looking in at the playoffs from the outside. I don't think anyone wants to see Joe Burrow in the playoffs."
Fitzpatrick isn't talking stats, or PFF grades, or analytics. He's talking pure gut.
"There's such a confidence about him. A swagger. I think everybody in the building feeds off it. The whole team feeds off it. Maybe more than any other team in the NFL. It's not just the offensive side of the ball. When he's got those guys going, it's the whole team that just feeds off him. I hate to say it because I'll get in trouble, but it's almost borderline arrogance (he means in a good way), but he comes to back it up time and time again. He's the coolest, calmest, most confident quarterback in the NFL."
All that said, Fitzpatrick says the fate of the Bengals season rests with the other Joe, Burrow's running back Joe Mixon. Although he says running out of shot-gun is hard on non-dual threat quarterbacks, he believes the Bengals have the ability to make Mixon a factor down the stretch and improve a running game ranked last.
"It's really important for the offense to get Joe Mixon going in some of those gun runs," Fitzpatrick said. "The gun run game is interesting because you tip your hand with the alignment of the back a lot of the time. Teams will key off of that, but they do a nice job and I think Joe has a good understanding with Zac (Taylor). Some of those pass plays are essentially runs for them. He's not always throwing the ball down the field. He loves checking it down, throwing balls in the flat that are really high percentage plays and that replaces the run game a little bit.
"It's a little easier when you have a Jalen Hurts, a Lamar Jackson, even Josh Allen, a guy at quarterback who is a real threat to pull it and run. That helps you in the numbers game."
But this is Burrow and Fitzpatrick has faith in what Taylor can do to free up Mixon.
"With the implementation of RPOs (run-pass options), that really helps," Fitzpatrick said. Instead of the quarterback pulling it and running with it, the quarterback is able, after the snap, to make a decision based on the linebackers and how aggressive they are and pull it and throw it in the flat or pull it and throw it on a slant."
With Burrow throwing it, FitzMagic says JoeMagic has turned the Bengals scary.
"Just say Joe Anything and it's cool, right?" says one magic man of another.