Who should be the starting quarterback when Jameis Winston returns from suspension?
That’s been a hot topic in the media and a big debate among Bucs fans for a couple of weeks now. Well, the time has finally come. Jameis is a free man and back with the team at One Buc where he belongs. The Bucs have pulled off the improbable and are now 2-1 after beating the Saints and Eagles and nearly coming back on the Steelers after spotting them a 20 point halftime lead. Ryan Fitzpatrick has been playing outstanding football totaling more than 1,200 yards and 11 touchdowns. And now, this team faces the tough decision of who to start in their next game. So what do the Bucs do in this situation? How does Dirk Koetter handle these unusual circumstances? What’s the right choice here? Well, I’ve decided to take a long, hard look at the team’s options to try and figure out the best course of action for this scenario and here’s my thoughts on the “Winston vs Fitzpatrick” QB controversy.
THE CASE FOR JAMEIS WINSTON
The only real argument that I have for starting Winston in Week 4 at Chicago would be that he’s THE guy. He’s the Bucs franchise quarterback. He’s the future. He SHOULD be the starter. It’s only natural, right? However, the problem is that Jameis hasn’t practiced with this team in a long time. Hell, he hasn’t even seen or talked to his teammates or coaches in 25 days or so. They’re on a short week following their Monday night game which means he gets one, maybe two full practices before going on the road to play a dangerous 2-1 Bears team with a Khalil Mack led defense. He hasn’t been throwing with his receivers lately and he hasn’t been taking snaps from new center Ryan Jensen either. Not exactly ideal conditions for a guy coming fresh off of a 3-game suspension. Should the Bucs literally throw him to the wolves or should they hold off on bringing him back? As bad as Jameis wants to play, I’m sure that even he would understand the team’s decision to hold off on playing him until after their Week 5 bye. Of course, he did perform really well in the preseason finishing 30 of 41 for 388 yards, 3 touchdowns and zero interceptions. But that was preseason. Fitz has been producing in the regular season.
THE CASE FOR RYAN FITZPATRICK
The best argument for “FitzMagic” is the old “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. Or as wide receiver DeSean Jackson put it last week after the win against the Eagles, “You can’t take the hot man out!” That’s exactly what Fitz is right now. He’s hot! He’s on fire! I mean how do you justify it? Honestly. Here’s a guy who’s won two of his last three games by balling his ass off to the tune of 1,230 yards, 11 touchdowns, 4 interceptions (2 of which weren’this fault), 70% completions, 410 yards per game and a 124.8 QB rating. He’s shown leadership. He’s been taking care of the football and not turning it over, except for that ugly second quarter versus Pittsburgh. He’s done anything and everything that could’ve possibly been asked of him as backup quarterback thrown into this situation. He hasn’t given the coaches any reason whatsoever to pull him and until he does, I almost feel like they should keep him in there. Which could very well be in Chicago where Fitz would be facing a Bears defense that has accumulated 10 sacks, 2 interceptions and 4 forced fumbles in their first two games. Then again, the Eagles have a pretty good defense too and Fitz carved them up going 27 of 33 for 402 yards and 4 touchdowns. After their Week 5 bye, they play four of the next six games on the road including a Week 6 trip to play the division rival Atlanta Falcons.
I would say that the earliest we might see Jameis Winston is in Week 6 at Atlanta for a division matchup with the Falcons. There is the possibility of seeing him in Chicago IF Fitzpatrick struggles against that opportunistic Bears defense. But if the “FitzMagic” continues into the bye week, I just don’t see them sitting him. As much as I’d love to see Jameis back out there, they can’t bench Fitz. I’m sorry, but they just can’t do it. It doesn’t make sense. It defies logic. It goes against almost every sports metaphor and superstition out there. You don’t sit a player who’s “in the zone”. You don’t talk to a pitcher in the middle of a no-hitter. You don’t ask a good hitter about his current hitting streak. You don’t call a timeout when you’re best shooter has drained four 3’s in a row. And you don’t bench a quarterback who’s set an NFL record in the first three games and won two of them. YOU DON’T DO IT! Especially not a head coach that came into this season needing to win games to save his job, is winning games and wants to continue winning games. Now I’m not saying that Winston wouldn’t keep this winning streak going, but why mess with a winning formula? Right now, this team has chemistry. Nobody knows what Winston’s return could do to that. Maybe nothing. Maybe it explodes and the team gets better. Maybe it implodes and the team comes crashing back down to Earth. DeSean may have been the only one to actually come out and say it, but the whole team is thinking it. Every athlete would be. All these guys care about is winning. Jameis wants this team to be a winner. And if that means standing on the sideline in a hat with a clipboard instead of being on the field in a helmet with the football, then I think he’ll be on board…at least for the moment. As for now, this team is heading to Chicago where whoever is the starting quarterback will have to deal with Khalil Mack.
Until then, as always…GO BUCS!!!