Opening the season, it appeared the Buccaneers would probably not have a chance at a win until week 4 when they met up against the Chicago Bears. The first three games of the season the Buc’s drew NFC South rival New Orleans Saints, Super Bowl contenders Pittsburgh Steelers, and the reigning Super Bowl champions Philadelphia Eagles. It appeared to even be competitive in these games due to starting quarterback, Jameis Winston, being suspended for all three games would take magic. Game one against the Saints held tons of “Fitz-Magic,” backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick lit up the field throwing for 417 yards and 4 TD, not to mention rushing for 36 yards and an additional TD. Fitzpatrick play helped lead the Buc’s to a 48-40 win over the Saints who were a tackle away from an NFC championship berth. In week two Fitzpatrick continued his dominating performance throwing for 402 yards and four touchdowns against the defending world champions Philadelphia Eagles. Before the season began when asked head coach Dirk Koetter stated that Jameis Winston is not guaranteed to be the starting QB when they took the field week four against the Bears. Last week the feeling that Winston was still primed to take over after his suspension had run its course, but with another showing from Fitzpatrick that may be less likely.
Winston who has a historically troubled past is serving a three-game suspension after being accused of groping an Uber driver in 2016. Winston was drafted with the first overall pick by the Buc’s back in 2015 immediately taking over the reigns of the organization. Winston held his own averaging 258.6 yards per game in his first three seasons, what troubles fans is that from year to year Winston hasn’t shown much improvement at all. From his rookie year to last year, Winston only averaged 17 more yards per game in his third season compared to his rookie season. Before last season Jason Licht, general manager for Tampa Bay, vowed to bring in weapons for Winston that make it easier to find open receivers. Licht went out and grabbed speedy veteran Desean Jackson, immediately this became a great combo on paper, a red zone threat in Mike Evans paired with a deep threat in Desean Jackson. In his first year with the Buccaneers, Jackson caught one touchdown pass from Jameis Winston. Flash forward one year, with Fitzpatrick at the helm Desean Jackson had one touchdown in the first drive of the Buccaneers season, he finished week one with two TDs and 146 yards. In the second game, it only took one play to give Desean Jackson his third touchdown of the season after Fitzpatrick found Jackson on a post route for 75 yards.
The Buccaneers are 2-0 on the season, if you ask any football fan the reciprocal would more than likely the prediction for the first two games, 0-2. Beating two Super Bowl favorites in the first two weeks. As much as this appears as a team effort, the defense in both weeks gave up over 400 yards in each contest. The defense has been a low point for years, and nothing has changed to this year, the offense has been so good that they’ve been able to win these shootout type battles which they have not been able to win in the past. So shouldn’t the answer be not to fix something that isn’t broke?
Fitzpatrick is in no way a mysterious person in the National Football League, he as in fact played for six other NFL teams in his career. The Harvard grad is most famously known as being the player who has the highest score on the famous pre-draft Wonderlic test. In his 14 year career his highest season average for yards is 244; currently, he is almost double that at 409 yards per game. So it seems that likelihood of this magic to continue is unlikely, but is it better going forward for the Bucs to play and pray that it continues?
This upcoming week on Monday night Tampa Bay will host the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers once again being dubbed as a Super Bowl contender has struggled. In week one they did not win nor lose against the Cleveland Browns, they tied. In week 2 Pittsburgh couldn’t slow down first-year starter Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs losing 42-37. Fitzpatrick will be the starting QB for this contest. When asked about who should start week 4 Desean Jackson stated “You can’t take the hot man out. You got the hot fire right now. It’s like NBA Jam…whoever’s got that hot fire shot, you got to keep shooting, man.” Obviously, Jackson is talking about the man who has been on the throwing end of his 3 TD year so far. So what could it mean if Jackson got his wish?
Ryan Fitzpatrick being a seasoned vet and journeyman is in no way the future of the organization. The 35-year-old could very well hold the reins for the rest of the season and even carry them throughout next season. The question is what happens with Jameis Winston; currently, Winston is under contract for the rest of the year, and in April the team exercised a 5th-year option for the 2019 season. This, of course, is no guarantee that he keeps his job going forward. It appears that Winston hasn’t been capable of getting the team to its fullest potential. Each year offenses headed by Winston have finished in the middle of the pack regarding the total offense. One positive that can be taken from this whole situation is learning. If he is smart about it, Winston should look at the film and realize what Fitzpatrick is doing that unleashes this beast of an offense. It seems very unlikely that Tampa Bay would move on from a QB they invested a first overall pick and designed the team to best complement his skills. That being said look for Fitzpatrick to be the QB for next week and additionally week 4. More than likely the Buc’s will consider both options on a week to week basis.