Although the Buccaneers could not conjure quite enough FitzMagic to pull off a comeback win against the Steelers on Monday, Tampa Bay will start Ryan Fitzpatrick against the Bears this afternoon, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter (via Twitter). This was the expected move given how well Fitzpatrick has generally played through the first three weeks of the season and in light of the fact that the team is on a short week this week.
Plus, we heard earlier this month that Fitzpatrick would remain under center for as long as he performs at a high level. But according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, Tampa Bay head coach Dirk Koetter told his team during a meeting on Wednesday that he was “one or two plays away” from lifting Fitzpatrick on Monday night in favor of backup Ryan Griffin. At the time Koetter was contemplating that move, Fitzpatrick had just thrown his third interception and the club was trailing Pittsburgh 23-7.
Koetter, of course, did not end up pulling Fitzpatrick, but the fact that he made his thought process known to his team took some Buccaneers by surprise. Some players simply took Koetter’s words at face value, but some wondered whether he was laying a foundation for Jameis Winston to return, perhaps as soon as Week 6 (Tampa Bay has a bye in Week 5). After all, the team still views Winston as its long-term quarterback, so it stands to reason that he will be under center at some point soon, even if Fitzpatrick continues to overachieve.
Jenna Laine of ESPN.com reports that the Bucs will reassess their QB situation during their bye week, and that Koetter has informed Fitzpatrick and Winston of his plans. Koetter said, “We know what we’re going to do. Both guys know what we’re going to do. Hope everybody can appreciate that it doesn’t do us any good to tell our opponents what we’re going to do.”
Winston was not permitted to practice at the team facility during his suspension, but Laine writes that he brought in quarterbacks coaches George Whitfield and John Beck and longtime trainer Otis Leverette to help him maintain the same schedule he had with the Bucs, and the group conducted daily workouts with 25 free agents and former teammates.
Winston’s initiative impressed Koetter, who said, “Hats off to Jameis for putting together a group of guys to do what he did…Jameis is a quarterback, coach and GM all at the same time — perfect. I think there is a little adjustment period, and that’s one of the things we’re trying to move along as quickly as we can.”
Reading between the lines, it certainly seems as if Winston may be starting for the Bucs in Week 6.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.