The PewterReport.com Roundtable features the opinions of the PR staff as it tackles a Tampa Bay Buccaneers-related topic each week.
This week’s topic: When will Jameis Winston start at QB again for the Bucs?
Scott Reynolds: When The FitzMagic Wears Off
This is actually a really tough topic because it requires looking into a crystal ball. How long will Ryan Fitzpatrick’s stellar play last? Will he get injured causing an immediate need for Jameis Winston to come in and play in relief? Because right now, DeSean Jackson is right – the Bucs shouldn’t rock the boat and take Fitzpatrick, who has the hot hand, out of the line up just because Winston’s three-game suspension ends on Tuesday after Tampa Bay’s Monday Night Football game against Pittsburgh. And Dirk Koetter will undoubtedly agree.
Bucs QB Ryan Fitzpatrick – Photo by: Mary Holt/PR
So when does Winston return? When Fitzpatrick’s magic wears off, and I think that means two straight losses – unless the losses are more the fault of Tampa Bay’s defense and Fitz is still playing well. With each win that Fitzpatrick helps commandeer, I think he builds a credit. Right now he’s got two credits in the Bucs bank. However, two losses to Pittsburgh and Chicago – as I originally predicted in my season preview – would trigger Winston’s return after the bye week in my opinion. Now if Fitzpatrick and the Bucs start the season 4-0 and then lose two games in a row after the bye week to Atlanta and Cleveland I think it would still be difficult to bench Fitzpatrick after a 4-2 start. However, I believe a 3-3 record with losses to the Falcons and Browns would trigger the return of Winston against the Bengals in Week 7.
Remember that the Bucs were 2-1 under Fitzpatrick last year in the three games he started for the injured Winston, yet Winston got his job back when his shoulder healed up enough for him to return to action. What makes putting Winston back in the starting lineup so tempting is that he had his best preseason since entering the league in 2015 and Tampa Bay desperately needs to evaluate his on-field performance before deciding whether to sign him to a long-term extension after his fifth-year option in 2019 or whether to place the franchise tag on him. As long as the Bucs stay above .500 and Fitzpatrick avoids back-to-back losses I think he remains in the lineup while Winston rides the pine.
Mark Cook: When The Offense Begins To Bog Down
Week 7 when he is starting for another team? I kid. Really. As much as I like what Fitzpatrick is doing now, this team can’t keep up the current pace. I mean, they just can’t. Defenses will always find a way to key on a weakness eventually, and slow down the Bucs offense. Then the chess match starts and we see how good this offensive staff really is.
So at what point does Winston get back under center? It really is impossible to say, but if Fitzpatrick and the Bucs are 3-0 a week from now, there is no way Tampa Bay hands the job back to Winston. That is a fast way to create a disaster in the locker room.
The Bucs are currently on pace to not only shatter franchise records, but also set NFL records. but as mentioned earlier, it can’t keep going for 16 straight weeks, can it? Fitzpatrick has had some of these hot streaks. Heck, most NFL quarterbacks have had some sort of two or three game stretch where they look unstoppable. But even the greats fall back to earth eventually. If Fitzpatrick were 25 and not 35 maybe you ride through the eventual – and inevitable – adversity that is coming.
Winston is the future. The Bucs have already committed over $20 million to Winston next season and still believe he can be the team’s first franchise quarterback. Delaying the inevitable in hopes a 35-year old journeyman quarterback can lead the team to the Super Bowl would set the team back in the long run. I am in no way advocating just handing the keys back to Winston when he comes back next week. That would be foolish to disrupt a magical start to the season. But Fitzpatrick is not the future and once this offense goes through a couple game stretch where they put up average numbers and perhaps drop a couple games, you have to let Winston show what he can do.
Trevor Sikkema: Will He?
Look, facts are facts. There are only three players in NFL history who have thrown for 400 yards and four touchdowns in back-to-back games, and there is only one player who has ever started a season with two 400-yard, four-touchdown performances.
And it ain’t Jameis Winston. It’s Ryan Fitzpatrick.
I’ll be fair to Winston and recognize that he was the highest rated passer in the preseason a month ago. But as we have certainly learned on many levels, preseason is not the regular season, and taking three weeks off likely didn’t help make the most of that momentum. Now, I’ll also say this, Winston did take three weeks off last season, the three games Fitzpatrick started when Winston was healing from his shoulder injury, and when he came back Winston seemed to be playing his best ball.
But where does the balance of “you don’t lose your starting job due to injury (or in this case a suspension)” and the act that taking the ball out of a hot hand find its middle ground.
If you ask me, there isn’t one; you play Fitzpatrick.
Just like it wouldn’t make sense for Dirk Koetter to mess up a good thing and take play calling away from Todd Monken, so should be the case with the starting quarterback position. I think that as long as the Bucs are above .500, you can’t take Fitzpatrick out. The only way you would take him out if they were still above .500 with him is if it was clear that they were winning in spite of him, but I don’t think they’ll be above .500 if not for him as a catalyst, so that’s why I came to that conclusion.
If that means Fitzpatrick starts the entire season, so be it. This team has been void of winning for so long that it would be foolish to risk it while it’s here. As long as they’re winning more than they’re losing, Winston should wait — even if the way it plays out makes him wait until next year.