FitzMagic is in the air again.
Late in the third quarter of the Buccaneers’ 37-34 loss to the Bengals on Sunday, the Buccaneers benched starting quarterback Jameis Winston shortly after his fourth interception of the game, which means Ryan Fitzpatrick once again became the Buccaneers’ quarterback — for how long still remains to be seen. Trailing by 18 points with just over a quarter to play, Fitzpatrick brought the Buccaneers back from the dead to tie the game with a minute remaining in the fourth quarter.
The Buccaneers had a quarterback controversy when Winston returned from his three-game suspension. Two weeks after Winston regained his starting job, the controversy might’ve been reignited by his meltdown.
At the time of Winston’s departure, the Buccaneers trailed the Bengals 34-16. Winston went 18 of 35 for 276 yards, one touchdown, four picks, and a 47.7 passer rating. It was less about the number of interceptions Winston threw and more about how Winston threw them. Repeatedly, Winston made dumb decision after dumb decision, throwing some of the worst interceptions you’ll see this season.
This throw by Jameis Winston may be the worst of the season at any level. pic.twitter.com/q79tDyjAJj
[email protected] with the PICK SIX!#TBvsCIN#SeizeTheDEYpic.twitter.com/4GVjKAFuA0
Due to his suspension (for allegedly groping an Uber driver), Winston has started only three games and appeared in four total games. Even still, he’s managed to rack up 10 interceptions. Entering the game, Sam Darnold led the league with 10 interceptions. So, Winston is already among the league leaders despite playing in only four games.
This isn’t a new problem. Since entering the league as the top overall pick in 2015, Winston has thrown 54 interceptions in 49 games. He’s also fumbled 35 times. He’s been remarkably inconsistent, capable of reaching such great heights and sinking to the lowest of lows. As Winston struggles to make the kind of progress the Buccaneers want to see, the Buccaneers might be forced to deal with questions about their quarterback situation — questions that deal with their short- and long-term plans.
In the short term, they could make a move back to Fitzpatrick, who played well in relief of Winston in the opening weeks of the season and led a huge comeback on Sunday. Fitzpatrick didn’t just connect with Mike Evans for a 72-yard touchdown. He also led a game-tying, eight-point drive late in the fourth quarter before his defense allowed a walk-off field goal.
However, with the Buccaneers likely out of the playoff mix (they’re alive at 3-4, but don’t look like a contender), they don’t really have much of an incentive to play Fitzpatrick, a 35-year-old journeyman who doesn’t have a long-term future with the team. At the very least, they need to find out if Winston is their quarterback of the future.
That’s the more important aspect of the Buccaneers’ quarterback situation. The Buccaneers look like they’re on track to land a high draft pick, which they could use on a quarterback if they think Winston isn’t worth keeping around. If they do think he’s their future, they’ll have to give him a new contract soon. Given his inconsistencies on the field and his troubling history away from the field, it’s not unreasonable to think the Buccaneers might want to start over at the quarterback position.
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