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Bengals' Thursday Night Throwback Features Return Of Amazon's FitzMagic And Big Whit

Andrew Whitworth on the Amazon Thursday Night Football set after an NFL football game between the Los Angeles Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs, Thursday, Sep.15, 2022, in Kansas City, Mo. The Chiefs defeated the Chargers 27-24. (Logan Bowles via AP)
Andrew Whitworth on the Amazon Thursday Night Football set after an NFL football game between the Los Angeles Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs, Thursday, Sep.15, 2022, in Kansas City, Mo. The Chiefs defeated the Chargers 27-24. (Logan Bowles via AP)

Ryan Fitzpatrick, who won that Prime Video overtime of a game that brought Joe Lee Burrow to Cincinnati, makes a lawyerly case like he always does as the greatest quarterback to ever come out of Harvard Yard.

On Thursday night at Paycor Stadium (8:15 p.m.-Cincinnati's Channel 9) when he joins fellow former Bengal Andrew Whitworth on the juggernaut Amazon broadcast team, he'll predict a win for Burrow's Bengals. But as a fan he's pulling for 3-0 Miami, where two years ago he mentored the rookie Tua Tagovailoa.

"I'll always pull for him and I played with a lot of guys still on that squad and I still root for them," Fitzpatrick says. "The only guy I played with from the Bengals who is going to be there is a guy I'm going to be in the booth with."

 Whitworth and Fitzpatrick, sharing a pregame, halftime and postgame roundtable with former foes Richard Sherman and Tony Gonzalez, along with host Charissa Thompson, have been going back and forth as quarterbacks and offensive linemen usually do. Particularly when it comes to the topic of Burrow's sacks.

Whitworth can get a leg up on Fitzpatrick Thursday by reminding him that once upon a time a hot quarterback brought a 3-0 team into Paycor, where the Bengals ambushed Fitzpatrick's Bills at the gun on Mike Nugent's field goal in 2011 in the first home win for A.J. Green and Andy Dalton with Whitworth at left tackle.

"Good memory, but I've got an even better one that's more recent," Fitzpatrick says. "The Burrow-Tua Bowl in 2019. If we don't win, Burrow doesn't go to the Bengals. I'd just like to say, 'You're welcome, Zac.'"

If it seems like FitzMagic keeps appearing out of thin air in key moments in recent Bengals history, how about Whitworth?

After going to three Pro Bowls as the captain of three AFC North championship teams and 168 games in 11 seasons, Whitworth went from the Bengals to the Rams and retired after his last snap beat Cincinnati in last year's Super Bowl. He developed a relationship with a Rams offensive assistant named Zac Taylor and Burrow was sitting in Whitworth's Los Angeles living room when he saw the Bengals draft Ja'Marr Chase. He and his wife planned to have dinner with Burrow Monday night.

"Special place,' says Whitworth, who came to Cincinnati right from last Thursday's assignment in Cleveland. "That's why Melissa Whitworth and our four kids flew in here early to spend pretty much the week. We felt it was important enough for the kids to miss some school so we could share with them what this city means to us."

On Monday they went on a tour of the field and they ran into Bengals president Mike Brown on his daily jog. Taylor, now in his fourth season as Bengals head coach, popped out of a short week to say a brief hello.

It was a good, warm visit, much like the one last month in Brown's office when Whitworth was here for the Rams preseason game and the whole family was in there. Paul Brown. Katie and Troy Blackburn and their two daughters. They talked the league, Amazon, the old days and the Super Bowl.

"We talked about what a good game it was," Whitworth says. "For me, I was proud and happy for both teams, but there was only one way me and my family could get the ultimate feeling."

On Monday, they talked about the Bengals' 27-12 victory over the Jets in New York and "Mike got to see the kids and Melissa." For Mike Brown, this is old home week. Fitzpatrick was at Sunday's game at MetLife Stadium for Jeff Mangold's induction into the Jets Ring of Honor and when he saw Mike Brown three boxes down from him, he had to say hello to his fellow former Ivy League quarterback.

First, he had to talk his way past security wearing a flannel shirt and his 19th century beard. "I'm Ryan Fitzpatrick," FitzMagic said. "I used to play for the Bengals."

"And everyone else," he could have added.

But Fitzpatrick knows that it was playing for the Bengals that jump-started his everyman but enormous 17-year sojourn. Brown, a former Dartmouth quarterback, knew what he meant to the Crimson and hoped to sign Fitzpatrick after the 2005 draft to back up Carson Palmer.

When the Rams grabbed him in the seventh round, Brown traded for him at the 2007 cutdown. When Palmer went down for most of the 2008 season, Fitzpatrick got the most extended work of his career. While he teamed with Whitworth to keep the locker room together and set the table for the 2009 AFC North sweep, Fitzpatrick parlayed it into a big money deal with the Bills and was off.

"Back in the Peyton Manning days, it was tough being a third quarterback," Fitzpatrick says. "When I became a backup, the No. 2, that was huge for a guy just trying to hang on."

Always popular and personable, Fitzpatrick loved how new Bengals center Ted Karras, like Mangold, one of so many of his centers, called his name in his post-game media scrum in anticipation of Thursday night. Karras, it will be recalled, displays a signed photo in his home of him and Fitzpatrick exulting after some FitzMagic.

"Teddy called me from the locker room," Fitzpatrick says. "I told him, I'll have to wait to see you Thursday."

Here's how FitzMagic sees some present day hocus-pocus in Burrow:

"I love watching him play because not only does he have the weapons to do it, but he has no fear in putting the ball down the field. If he sees one-on-one or something giving him an advantageous look, he's getting the ball down field. I feel that doesn't happen as much it should in the league with a lot of young quarterbacks. I like his fearlessness. There is his pocket presence and taking too many sacks, but he'll continue to learn and get better at it."

Whitworth had to laugh during Monday's Amazon production meeting. Off of what he said on last Thursday's broadcast, maybe he spoke Sunday into existence. How the slow start had been a combination of a slew of things. Maybe a new offensive line learning each other. Perhaps Burrow holding the ball too long sometimes or the line dealing with the difficult task of blocking in front of an empty backfield or maybe just early-season kinks.

But on Sunday …

"It's what we talked about," Whitworth says. "Getting it out of their hands a little faster, a little more tempo. Their protection was better. All the things you wanted to see improve. They were more in their groove. They protected Joe better Joe protected the guys better and was able to get the ball out of his hand quick while still getting the ball down field. They're built on big plays, breaking tackles. It was good to see that."

Fitzpatrick left New York raving about Tee Higgins, the Bengals' monstrously gifted 6-4 wide receiver who came out with 98 yards in the first half.

"He's unbelievable. He's so underrated," Fitzpatrick says. "At the very least he's a top 15 receiver. And he's overshadowed."

Both Fitzpatrick and Whitworth are enjoying the TV work in their first year of retirement. Fitzpatrick loves having the weekends free with his family and the give and take with a guy like Sherman, a former foe he has enjoyed getting to know and hearing his perspective on different issues.

"I still love being around the game and the guys and the crowd. It's like what I told Melissa. It's slowly getting out of the game instead of just jumping out," Whitworth says. "It's exactly what I hoped for. It's really special to be a part of something for the first time, the first streamed games, like the first televised football game or first Monday Night Football game. That's cool."

Fitzpatrick gives the nod to the Bengals because the Dolphins defense is coming off 90 snaps against the Bills in the Miami heat. Kind of like that 38-35 win he engineered in 2019 when both teams went 80-plus plays in overtime. Except it was in the more pleasant 76 degrees of Dec. 22, in the next to last game of the year, the first draft pick of the 2020s going to the loser.

"I maybe had the biggest impact on the franchise," says Fitzpatrick, who outdueled Dalton 419 yards to 396, with tongue maybe not in cheek. "Think about Andy getting 16 points with two two-point conversions (in the last 29 seconds of regulation). They had the same probability of winning as the Jets did against Cleveland (last week)."

Fitzpatrick ended up impacting both franchises because he took Tua under his wing. He'll interview him Wednesday for a piece to be shown during what has suddenly become a mega AFC game.

"It's going to be a big prime-time-going-to-the-playoffs type atmosphere to it and I'm not sure when the season started we thought it would be a big game like that," Fitzpatrick says. "When you throw Burrow and Tua in there, I think there's going to be an audience for it."

Will they see the Bengals end another 3-0 start from a FitzMagic-mentored quarterback?

"We'll see," Fitzpatrick says, "if history is on the Bengals side."

He already put it there three years ago.