It’s time for Fitzpatrick to retake control of the Bucs

by Gary Shelton on October 29, 2018 · 8 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs

Doesn't Fitzpatrick have to start?/STEVE MUNCIE

Monday, 4 a.m.

There should be no vote. There should be no discussion. There should be no show of hands.

Once again, this is Ryan Fitzpatrick's team.

Take it from him, if you can.

Start him? Of course you start him next week against Carolina. You start him and you stick with him. If he falls behind 14 points, you trust him to bring

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Winston threw four picks, and it could have been six./JEFFREY S. KING

back his team. If he throws interceptions, you stay the course. It is his team, and for now, it is his course to navigate. If the Bucs are to recapture any magic from this season, it should be up to Ryan Fitzmagic to provide it.

“We don’t need to talk about it,” Koetter said. “I mean, today is not the day I have to decide that (Fitzpatrick or Winston), right? We don’t have to talk about that today.I don’t have any problems making decisions and I will make it when the time is right. Now is probably not the right time to make it.”

Evans had six catches for 179 yards./JEFFREY S. KING

On the other hand, what changes? Is Winston going to have a really, really good week of practice? Is Koetter going to try to fool the Panthers? Are the Glazers going to get involved? Why not just announce Fitzpatrick as the starter? We all know it's coming. Or that it should be.

The moral of two tales of two quarterbacks cry out that this is now Fitzpatrick's team. First of all, there was Jameis Winston, who did his best to throw away his job Sunday. Then there is Fitzpatrick, who led the team from behind before losing a 37-34 game on a last-second field goal by Randy Bullock.

Winston was as dreadful as he ever has been. He threw four interceptions, and none of them were on deflections, and on none of them was he under heavy

Pierre-Paul had two more sacks for Bucs./jEFFREY S. KING

pressure. He threw four, and he could have -- should have -- thrown six. Winston spat on whatever odds of victory his team had.

Yes, Winston talks a good game. But aren't you tired of listening? Winston is a turnover machine, and he shows no signs of getting better. You can debate at another time whether this closed the book on ever starting Winston again, or bringing him back with a new contract. But for now, this is Fitzpatrick's job. Anyone who says differently should be fired immediately.

So what was the deal with Captan Turnover?

“That’s pretty simple, turning it over," Koetter said. "Overthrows, it was a very windy day, not the easiest day to throw it, but two of the four the ball was just overthrown.”

Koetter waited too long to pull Winston./CARMEN MANDATO

Koetter said he considered pulling Winston earlier, but his long touchdown pass to DeSean Jackson convinced him to stick with him.

His first pick came on a second-and-seven play at the Bengals' 18 when it was scoreless. He threw deep over the middle to Evans, and the Bengals'  Shawn Williams picked it off in the end zone and returned it 29 yards. A clear overthrow, and it came four plays after Williams almost had an interception

His second pick came with a first-and-10 at the Cincinnati 21 with the Bucs' trailing 7-0. He faced a bit of pressure, then pulled up and threw it straight to Preston Brown.

His third interception came early in the third period with the Bucs trailing 27-16. On first-and-10 at the Bengals' 43, Winston floated one toward Cameron Brate that was intercepted by Jordan Evans.

Barber had a good afternoon for the Bucs./TIM WIRT

His final interception -- one pass after his third interception -- was picked off in the flat by Jessie Bates and returned 21 yards for a score. That completed the meltdown.

Did Jackson ask to be traded?/CARMEN MANDATO

With Fitzpatrick, the Bucs at least had hope. It came from 21 points down to tie and if, somehow, the Bucs had gotten the ball back, wouldn't you have liked Fitzpatrick's task of getting points? For his day, Fitzpatrick hit 11 of 15 for 194 yards ... all without having time to warm up properly.

"That's something I've practiced over the course of my career," Fitzpatrick said. "I'm standing around  and make a few 10-15-yard throws. It doesn't take a lot to get this thing going. I wish I had a couple of plays back, but I'm proud of the way we fought tonight."

Winston now has 54 interceptions in 49 NFL games. The basic truth of it is that he beleaguers the Bucs more with his turnovers than he blesses them with his yardage. He is a mistake waiting to happen, and usually, you do not have to wait long.

"I can't really blame anything," Winston said. "I have to take care of the football. I have to fix it. I can't play like that. I was heaving balls all over the place and not giving our team a chance to win."

Yes, Koetter talked about how windy the day was. But the Bengals' Andy Dalton didn't throw any picks. Neither did Fitzpatrick. But Winston did. He has thrown at least two interceptions in five straight games.

And so if you believe in football's basic lesson -- that the guy who plays better starts -- then you have to go with Fitzpatrick. It would be an insult to every Bucs' fan in existence otherwise.

“Fantastic," Koetter said of Fitzpatrick. "Hats off, that’s why you got a veteran backup. He goes in after a pick-six, so he had about two minutes to warm and up, and went in there and played with composure and did a great job bringing us back.”

Koetter is left with a slumping team that isn't particularly happy after losing three of four. There were reports that receiver DeSean Jackson had asked to be traded.

“Frustrated," Koetter said, describing Jackson's mood. "I don’t think he’d be alone in that. I’m frustrated so I would expect that he is too. All the best playmakers I’ve been around in my career, they want the ball, so that doesn’t surprise me. As far as requesting to be traded, I don’t know anything about that.”

The thing is, the Bucs had their second straight game of being at least average on defense, and Peyton Barber ran the ball well. It was just those pesky turnovers, football's equivalent of throwing money into the street.

The Bucs try to keep their season from slipping further away Sunday when the play at Carolina. Game time is 1 p.m.



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