Let the Games McGinn: Schires Or Fitzpatrick, But Not Both, Murph

As Harvard signal-caller Ryan Fitzpatrick slunk off the field, the Crimson faithful sat in stunned silence. The junior had just thrown his second interception since entering the game and Dartmouth had already begun to celebrate its stunning 30-16 upset victory on Harvard’s home turf.

The silence said it all. The perfect season, the Crimson’s realistic chances at sole possession of the Ivy title—none of it was supposed to end this way. Not with Fitzpatrick, Harvard’s own miracle worker, at the helm.

Fitzpatrick’s mistakes were the product of the high-pressure situation in which he had been placed. Why he was put in that spot to begin with is anyone’s guess.

After the game, Fitzpatrick said his hand was at 100 percent.

But he wasn’t ready.

At least Harvard coach Tim Murphy didn’t think so. If he had been, Fitzpatrick would have taken every snap from scrimmage.

But Fitzpatrick had practiced once in the last three weeks, and gotten his cast removed less than a week before.

“There was a thought [about starting Fitzpatrick],” Murphy said. “We felt that Garrett [Schires] was better off mentally.”

Regardless of his purported physical fitness, Murphy correctly knew that Fitzpatrick was rusty. Schires, though not as good as a healthy, practiced Fitzpatrick, was ready.

So Schires started and Fitzpatrick was held in reserve for emergency situations. Unfortunately, that logic was abandoned at the beginning of the second quarter.

Schires started off slowly, struggling through the first quarter as he did each of the last two weeks before finding his rhythm.

But Harvard wasn’t losing; the score was still knotted at six. Not exactly an emergency situation.

But rather than give Schires a chance to redeem himself in the second quarter, as he successfully has twice in as many starts, in trudged Fitzpatrick on the first play of the next frame.

Murphy said afterwards that Fitzpatrick gave Harvard the best chance of scoring inside the red zone, thanks in part to his mobility.

But that reason makes little sense.

Your best quarterback is the one who gives you the best chance to score and a coach should always play his best players when he can.