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  1. Bucs

When deciding whether to keep starting Ryan Fitzpatrick, throw out logic

Bucs quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (14) points to a teammate during the second half. [TAILYR IRVINE | Times]
Published Sep. 17, 2018

TAMPA — Logic tells me that there is a wall out there with Ryan Fitzpatrick's name on it. That's his history. That's why he never became The Man on his previous zillion NFL teams. He's a reliever, a good one, but the longer you see his stuff, the less effective he'll be. He is clearly in a FitzMoment, a chart-topping plane of existence that has swept up a team and town — but it always ends.

Logic tells me that the suspended Jameis Winston should be the Bucs starting quarterback when he is un-suspended. Winston is 24. Fitzpatrick is 35. Who has a better chance of being the Bucs quarterback next season, or in 2020 or 2022?

Logic tells me the Bucs had no business bringing Winston back if they were just going to cut him loose and admit they blew it when they drafted him No. 1 overall. The Bucs would look very bad.

Well, all that logic is out the window, shredded into ticker tape for the Fitzpatrick parade.

It's his job.

The fact is that 2-0 looks very good and Fitzpatrick, barring injury or calamity Monday night, will be the starter when the Bucs travel to Chicago for their fourth game of the season. Jameis grabs a clipboard.

Fitzpatrick and the Bucs have upended everything with a stunning 2-0 start and an even more stunning Fitzpatrick performance. The man has thrown for more than 800 yards and for eight touchdowns. His quarterback rating: 151.5.

How do you not ride that wave?

How do you justify turning to Winston?

That's illogical at this point.

What to do?

"We'll worry about that when the time comes," Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said on Happy Monday.

It's impossible to see how Winston gets his job back if Fitzpatrick keeps playing like this. He won't be the quarterback here next year or the year after. But the future is now, and Koetter would be nuts not to ride it. His job is on the line. A lot of jobs are on the line.

Winston can only blame himself. Hey, I wasn't in that Uber, and I've checked three times.

But here's the silver lining: the Bucs matter again.

They owe a lot of that to Fitzpatrick. I hope Winston is noticing.

This season was slated for irrelevancy, a gutter crawl. Now look. These Bucs are playing free and easy, like their quarterback. The Mighty Fitz played dress-up after Sunday's win, switching into DeSean Jackson's threads, jewelry and sunglasses. That was a message there to young Bucs players:

You have to have a certain level of fun.

Winston played every play of every game as if it was the most important one of his career. He was wound so tight that he put it on everyone.

In the big picture, this is an awesome development for this franchise. Suddenly, Fitzpatrick has made this team fun to watch. The switch has flipped. Maybe the young guys can lay some of the new environment on Winston when he returns, and he will return. Just don't set your watch by it.

You have to hope that observing Fitz and the way these guys are performing will help Winston realize that you can't go out there with life or death on your face. Know your job, have fun. The best players and the best teams do that.

Logic says the Bucs don't really benefit with Fitzpatrick in there all year. Can you go 9-7 instead of 7-9? Yes. But you've seen the NFC. I still don't think the Bucs can play the long game, when defenses start scheming for Fitzpatrick. You can't score 75-yard touchdowns every Sunday. The run game can't back the Bucs up. You can't hand your defense and secondary leads every week, and they're not that great to start. This 2-0 start isn't sustainable.

Yeah, Fitz had to go and do it. He couldn't just go 0-3 or 1-2 and fade away. No, he has to be on the brink of national stardom. He's the MVP of the league after two weeks. In a surprising, beneficial scenario, Fitzpatrick is developing a team around him, with a freeness, a confidence it never had with Winston. He has already earned his pay. The Steelers will arrive angry and desperate Monday night. Big test.

Logic says this franchise risks the future if it gives up on Winston in the name of the current frenzy. What about Winston's psyche?

The Bucs are 2-0. Winston's psyche can take a seat, front or back. It doesn't matter if the Bucs pay a price down the road. The road is the here and now. You don't tinker with the magic. Ryan Fitzpatrick is The Man as long as he plays like this. The Bucs have no choice. Being 2-0 can be such a pain.

Contact Martin Fennelly at mfennelly@tampabay.con or (813) 731-8029.

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