Jameis Winston’s tenure as the starting quarterback of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers may be over. Ryan Fitzpatrick is wearing gold chains and showing off his chest hair and the Buccaneers are flying higher than they have in recent years. Tampa Bay is on to an impressive start with wins over New Orleans and Philadelphia–two of the top six teams from a year ago.
They can’t go back to Winston, who is sitting out because of a suspension for his off-the-field behavior stemming from a sexual assault involving an Uber driver. He was already on tenuous ground entering his fourth year because of that. Dirk Koetter refused to commit to Winston as the starter in Week 4 (when his suspension ends) back in July, but this start almost certainly has relegated him to the bench when he returns.
Let’s put Ryan Fitzpatrick and what has happened in some perspective. It’s not merely that he has played well. It’s that he has been historically good. Quarterbacks to start 2-0 and throw for over 700 yards to start a season since the merger? Tom Brady (2011 and 2015), Kurt Warner (2000), Peyton Manning (2013), Jim Kelly (1991), and now, Ryan Fitzpatrick. Highest passer rating of any quarterback to throw 50 passes through two weeks, ever? Fitzpatrick (151.5).
So on the one hand you’ve got literally the best start by a quarterback to a season ever, and on the other hand, you’ve got a guy who is suspended, in the final year of his rookie deal, and about to become really expensive. Yes, the Bucs picked up his fifth year option, but that’s a formality and is guaranteed for Winston for injury only. Tampa Bay could walk away or trade him and not have to deal with paying him a large sum of money.
Fitzpatrick joined Tampa Bay last year. Here are their results since the start of 2017:
Fitzpatrick: 144 of 224 (64.3%), 1922 yards, 15 TDs, 4 INTs, 104.3 passer rating, 4-1 as starter
Winston: 282 of 442 (63.8%), 3504 yards, 19 TDs, 11 INTs, 92.2 passer rating, 3-10 as starter
That’s right, Fitzpatrick has won more games as a Tampa quarterback over the last calendar year than Winston.
Dirk Koetter was on the hot seat, and Fitzpatrick has turned all the weapons in the Tampa Bay offense into a lethal combo to open the season. I don’t see him gladly turning things over to Winston in a few weeks. This isn’t to say Winston won’t start again in Tampa, as injuries do happen, but right now, Fitzpatrick is looking like the answer and Winston looks like his time is waning in Tampa.