Wednesday, January 24, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

What the Ryan Fitzpatrick signing says about the Bucs' expectations

TAMPA — It's a bad idea. What are the Bucs thinking? This is simply not the right guy to be the No. 2 quarterback to sit behind franchise savior Jameis Winston. Not with that beard. Not in this heat.

Aside from that, Ryan Fitzpatrick would seem to be a perfect fit for the Bucs.

He's 34. He's played and started for six NFL teams. Only two seasons ago, Fitzpatrick passed for 3,905 yards and 31 touchdowns while leading the New York Jets to a 10-6 record.

So after checking with the NFL to see if you can have two guys from Harvard on the same roster, the Bucs signed Fitzpatrick to a one-year, $3-million contract Friday.

If you don't like the idea, the line forms behind Ryan Griffin.

He and Sean Renfree stood the best chance of actually backing up Winston this season before Friday's news.

There are a couple things to remember about Griffin, who one day may become a fine quarterback. Griffin, 27, spent the past two seasons as the Bucs' No. 3 QB. He still has never thrown a regular-season pass. Renfree, who the Bucs released Friday to make room for Fitzpatrick, threw seven regular-season passes in two years in Atlanta.

RELATED: Three keys to a better Jameis Winston

There is a reason why the Bucs were willing to offer Mike Glennon $8-million per year to remain as the clipboard carrier in Tampa Bay. (The Bears gave him a 3-year, $45-million contract to do the same for rookie Mitch Trubisky).

The Bucs brass have paid lots of lip service to the idea of going with either Griffin or Renfree as Winston's backup in 2017.

"In both of those guys' case, they haven't had their chance, they haven't had their opportunity yet to prove when the money is on the line if they can do it," Koetter said shortly after Glennon's signing. "You never really know how a guy is going to do until he does it in a real NFL game."

That's the rub. The decision to sign Fitzpatrick signals the Bucs know they have a pretty good football team. Expectations are high. The margin for error is low. This is a team that missed the playoffs by the third tie-breaker last year.

Would Colin Kaepernick been a better choice? Younger, with a better resume. But Koetter was on record saying they didn't want to spend the extra time refitting the offense in case of injury to Winston.

One other thing about a guy like Fitzpatrick: He's seen it all. Don't underestimate what his experience will mean to Winston in the meeting room and especially on the sideline. Coaches can only tell you so much.

MEET RYAN FITZPATRICK: Five things to know about the new Bucs' quarterback

Winston: "Man, I've never seen that blitz they just ran, never even seen it on film. Also, what's the protection when they walk that guy to the line of scrimmage?"

Griffin: "Are you asking me?"

Now, you may hear about this thing called the Ryan Fitzpatrick curse. When he was drafted by the Rams, Marc Bulger was a Pro Bowl quarterback coming off back to back playoff appearances. After a 2-4 start, he injured his right throwing shoulder, missed two weeks, then re-injured it and was lost for the season.

In 2008 with the Bengals, Carson Palmer aggravated an elbow injury in Week 5 and was lost for the year. In Buffalo, promising quarterback Trent Edwards regressed as soon as Fitz shows up and eventually was released. Young Jake Locker got struck down twice by injury. Ryan Mallet hurt his shoulder in Houston. Geno Smith got sucker-punched with the Jets.

What does that mean for Winston? Playing quarterback is dangerous, that's what it means.

That's why it helps to have a good backup. If Winston, who has started all 32 games as a pro, is injured and forced to miss two games, you need a backup QB who can win at least one game. If he misses three, you need him to win at least one game.

Fitzpatrick will do that, if not more. Fear the beard. Joe Hawley can't wait.

Contact Rick Stroud at [email protected] Follow @NFLStroud.

     
 
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