Is it time to argue about the week 4 quarterback?

by Gary Shelton on August 29, 2018 · 2 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs

Will the layoff hurt Winston's play?/CARMEN MANDATO

Will the layoff hurt Winston's play?/CARMEN MANDATO

Wednesday, 4 a.m.

One of the hottest players in the NFL is about to go to the cooler.

And what, do you think, will Jameis Winston look like on the other side?

Like him or not, like the allegations against him or not, but there is no denying how good Winston has been in this preseason. He's the NFL's fourth-leading passer as far as rating. He's seventh as far as yards. Playing a quarter per game, he has been precise, accurate, dangerous.

And now, he must serve a three-game time-out. He cannot practice. He cannot meet with coaches. Evidently, he can watch the games, but he can only use one eye at a time and he has to eat Fudge Ripple Ice Cream as he watches.

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He has to endure sitting out against the Saints. He has to suffer through sitting out against the Eagles. He has to survive sitting out against the Steelers.

Then, and only then, will he be eligible to play.

So what do we get? In a month, will Winston be rusty and sloppy? Or will he be unleashed? Will he need work on his timing? Or will the team be convinced his time has been served, and sic him on the world?

Elsewhere, Bucs' fans are already debating what happens if the team is 2-1 when Winston is eligible to come back. There are those who think you keep Ryan Fitzpatrick at the helm. There are others who say, no, Winston is the better player of the two, and a team plays its better player.

But if Fitzpatrick is playing well, and if Winston has been idle, and it's a short week before the Bears, what do you decide?

Look, it's a long way off, and no one knows what sort of injuries either player might have by then. A reasonable guy would point out that the Bucs' chances of being 1-2 are better than their chances of being 2-1.

But me? I go with Winston.

Here's why. When both players are equal, there is no doubt that Winston has the better skills. That's why this has never been an open competition. Fitzpatrick plays when Winston is hurt.

Then there is this. Pretty much, the precedence says that good quarterbacks who have been suspended are still good quarterbacks when they are paroled.

Remember Tom Brady? He was suspended for four games by Roger Goodell in 2016.

On in the fifth game? Beady was excellent, throwing for 406 yards against Cleveland. He hit 28 of 40, and he threw for three touchdowns, and he looked as if he had never been gone. His rating was 127.7 that day.

Want another example? In 2010, Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger sat out for four games (he was originally suspended for six, but his penalty was reduced). He came back, also against Cleveland, and hit 16 of 27  passes for 257 yards and three scores. He had a rating of 112.7.

When Michael Vick came back from a two-year suspension, he did so as a backup for the Eagles. He rarely played.

Non-quarterbacks are fairly efficient, too. Zeke Elliott came back after a six-game suspension and rushed for 97 yards his first game. In 2004, Michael Pittman was gone for three games, and rushed for 72 yards on 15 carries.

In other words, a brief vacation doesn't ruin a player's return.

Here's the thing. A football team is a lot of moving parts. It matters how healthy the offensive line is, and how good Fitzpatrick has been playing, and how much the team needs Winston to return. It's silly to make a decision now over who the quarterback will be in a month.

But if I'm Winston, I stay in touch with some receivers, and I throw, and I study film, and I work. It's the mature thing to do.

And there's that word again.

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