Sometimes it all boils down to one simple thing. And, in this case with the struggling Buccaneers and their franchise quarterback repeatedly throwing interceptions and with a veteran quarterback in the wings who’s already proven that he can lead the offense to great things, the decision to go with Ryan Fitzpatrick came down to one simple thing.
Third year coach Dirk Koetter made the decision, a seemingly easy and obvious one, based on the only thing that matters for him to keep his job and that’s that the Bucs have to start winning games, again.
They started 2-0 and are now, 3-4.
Something had to be done.
Tune in to HC Dirk Koetter's day-after-game press conference. https://t.co/e5XokOhFoK
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) October 29, 2018
Anyone that saw Sundays 37 – 34 tough loss to the Bengals knew that this was a virtual certainty.
Fourth-year quarterback Jameis Winston played another awful game, which have been too frequent over the last two seasons. By the time Winston had thrown his fourth interception, which was returned for a touchdown late in the third quarter, the Bucs were trailing 34 – 16.
And Koetter went to the 14-year veteran at Fitzpatrick, who immediately ignited the offense throwing for 194 yards, two touchdowns and three scoring drives that got the game tied with a minute to go.
When Koetter said that it was a decision “based on not turning the ball over,” he was correct.
But, it’s bigger than that with Winston and everyone knows it.
Yes he was injured for part or all of 5 Games in 2017, but Winston’s record in the games that he started was 3-10. You couple that with losing 2 of the last three games in 2016 as the Bucs failed to make the playoffs, and Winston’s record coming into this year in his last 16 games started was 4-12.
Upon being reinstated as the starter after NFL suspension, Winston was unable to rally the Bucs in the Falcons game two weeks ago, throwing two interceptions in that one also. And even though the Bucs got by the Browns, Winston had a critical interception in the overtime in his own territory that could have spelled defeat against Cleveland.
So even though that was a win, it led to Sunday and a game where Winston threw two first-half interceptions as the Bucs fell behind 21 – 0. Kotter mentioned to the media post game Sunday that he had contemplated pulling Winston for Fitzpatrick, then. Again, that’s a coach looking to win and desperately trying to accumulate them to hang onto his job.
So, Winston is now 5-14 in his last 19 starts. and by the way, through Sunday, Winston has played in 14 quarters in 2018 and has 11 turnovers. That’s brutal for an offense and the morale of the team.
So, as we well documented, Tampa Bay and the Glazer family that owns the team, are now in a difficult place with Winston in terms of the future. If they risk playing Winston from here on out and an injury were to occur that would keep him from being able to pass a physical by March, the team would be on the hook for his fifth year rookie contract option- guaranteed at $21 million.
So, this week in Charlotte, Fitzpatrick will try to do what he did in the two starts at the beginning of the year against the Saints and the Eagles And, that’s reignite the Bucs offense from the beginning of the game and lead them to a win that would level their record at 4 – 4.
Fitzpatrick was 2-1 as the Bucs starter last year, and is now 4-1 in his Tampa Bay career.
Realistically, if the Bucs want to make the playoffs they’re going to have to end up with at least 9 and maybe 10 victories. To do that, they’re going to have to win at least six and maybe seven of their remaining nine games.
It isn’t easy, in the NFL and neither was the decision Monday to put the former number one pick on the bench because of poor play.
However, the Bucs want to win, and you can’t argue that starting and going with Fitzpatrick gives them the better chance to do it in the short-term.
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