Barring injury or a really. bad game, Fitz starts

by Gary Shelton on September 20, 2018 · 0 comments

in general

Fitzpatrick has been the NFL's hottest quarterback./CARMEN MANDATO

Thursday, 4 a.m.

It isn't because Jameis Winston was suspended. It isn't about his place as the Bucs' quarterback of the future. It isn's because of how the fans in the grandstands would vote.

If you want to know why Dirk Koetter should stay with Ryan Fitzpatrick, it's because of Garrison Sanborn.

And Ronald Jones II.

And Michael Liedtke.

And everyone else.

Barring an injury, barring a catastrophic performance, Koetter owes it to every player on his team to stick with Fitzpatrick. It isn't because of arm strength, or draft position, or potential. It's because of right now.

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Look at this way. NFL football is the ultimate meritoracy. You excel, you play.

That would be true after three games, and true after four games, and true after five games. The shinier that Fitzpatrick's season remains, the more Winston should watch.

Simple as that.

Look, I never thought this would be an issue. I figured Fitzpatrick would start the season, and he'd play well, but the Bucs would be 0-2 about right now. At 0-2, nothing would look better than Winston riding to the rescue.

But 0-2 turned into 2-0, and Fitzpatrick has been the league's player of the week for two straight weeks. He's the hottest player in the league, a player so dominant that rookies are trying to steal his nickname. He has the most famous beard in the history of Tampa Bay.

(An aside here: Did you see that Dolphins' rookie Minkah Fitzpatrick was upset at the backlash he got for trying to trademark "FitzMagic, saying he had used the nickname since he was in high school. A couple of points. One, Ryan Fitzpatrick was already in the NFL when Minkah was in high school. Two, Minkah was trying to trademark the name, essentially a move to keep someone else from using it. Three, rookies should show a little respect. Ryan wasn't saying Minkah couldn't use the nickname.)

So ask yourself: Through two games, what could Fitzpatrick have done better? Remember when general manager Jason Licht said that Winston wasn't assured of starting when Week Four rolled around? Unless he was just making noise, Fitzpatrick has earned his spot.

What are you saying to the team if you pull Fitzpatrick now? Better question: What are you saying to the fans if you start Winston and he fizzles against Chicago?

Again, this could all be moot. Fitzpatrick could blow up against the Steelers, or he could be injured. The Bucs might need Winston to play. But barring those two things, Fitzpatrick needs to drive the car. This isn't about 2019. This is about embracing success.

How hot is Fitzpatrick? Consider this. He's working on back-to-back 400-yard games. Heck, in his 14 years, Fitzpatrick has never before had back to back 300-yard games. This is the time of his life. This the huddle he has waited for.

Look, Fitzpatrick is almost 36 years old. That isn't that old for a quarterback. You want names? Peyton Manning won a Super Bowl at 37. Tom Brady did, too. And John Elway. Johnny Unitas was 10-2-1 for the Colts, who eventually won the Super Bowl. So, yeah, if a quarterback doesn't have success, it isn't just because of the calendar.

For the Bucs, the backup quarterback was rarely a pretty sight. In 1999,Shaun King replaced an injured Trent Dilfer and went 4-1, then led the team to the NFC title game. Chris Simms won six games in 2005. Rob Johnson won twice in 2002.

But Chris Chandler never won a game when he was trying to supplant Vinny Testaverde. The '77 Bucs were 0-8 with backup quarterbacks.

Now, we have an alternate hero.

Frankly, Jameis can wait,


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