The Bucs are starting Ryan Fitzpatrick Sunday, and making a mistake

Ryan Fitzpatrick will be back in the starting lineup with the Bucs play at Carolina Sunday. [MONICA HERNDON   |   Times]
Ryan Fitzpatrick will be back in the starting lineup with the Bucs play at Carolina Sunday. [MONICA HERNDON | Times]
Published Oct. 29, 2018

TAMPA — As a child, I always loved when the circus came to town. And all that's missing at Bucs headquarters right now is the calliope. They just shot their No. 1 draft pick out of the cannon, head coach and GM to follow.

Say goodbye to Jameis Winston. He is no longer the Bucs starting quarterback. The job belongs to Ryan Fitzpatrick. FitzHalloween beards are big sellers again.

Pay no attention to the long term.

"For us, this week is long term," Koetter said. "Next Sunday is as long term as … I don't even know who we play after Carolina. That's a fact."

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Yes, FitzMagic has cast his line and everyone has bitten. Who doesn't have a hook in his or her mouth?

I'm playing Winston all season.

But my job isn't on the line.

By making this decision — and Koetter said it was his, in consultation with GM Jason Licht — the head coach made it clear that he's in save-his-butt mode. And he reminded us of an unwritten rule: the quickest way to lose your job to not put the best players on the field.

I think this switch is a mistake. This franchise is no less a mess now than it was after Winston's fourth pick in Cincinnati. Tomorrow is canceled. You might as well turn to Ryan Griffin when Fitzpatrick implodes again, which he surely will. That's what Fitz does, magic, then mayhem. Remember the first half on Monday night against Pittsburgh. Counter argument: Winston looks like that all the time.

So, this is what we have, kids, a soon-to-be 36-year-old quarterback leading a last-place team with one of the worst defenses in human history. The head coach can't make it happen with Winston, who started this mess. Koetter and Licht's failures will be used against them in a court of Glazer if this all falls apart, and it will.

But Monday was a window into Koetter's world. He is doing what any self-respecting coach would do with if his job on the line, which is why the decision should be his alone. Think a Glazer is going to take the fall for this?

Throw in the fact that Koetter's offense leads the NFL in total yards and passing yards and is eight in points score. And that's without a running game. He's an offensive genius again, with explosives everywhere … and he's going to hand the keys to Mr. Four Picks?

Winston has truly been horrible. And now he is untradeable. I'd sell his body to science, but science would want two draft picks to take him.

This is the beginning of the end. Fitz will start, but he'll fade in a few weeks or as soon as the Bucs face a good defense. What is your goal anyway. What, 8-8 is the promised land? Performing due diligence on Winston is what this season is about.

If the Bucs are done with him, it's time to tank, trade everyone in sight. The Chargers would love a tight end Cameron Brate. Jason Pierre-Paul is resurgent. Super. Trade him. Pile up picks. You'll need them to draft a quarterback in 2019 and 2020 if you're done with Winston. And if you are, you have guaranteed that you'll be lousy for a few more years, when you've already had 11 of those in a row. Someone tell Gerald McCoy he's never making the playoffs, ever. Tell Mike Evans, too.

The Bucs are an appalling sight. Fitz is a mere Band-Aid. The Bucs must know that. But that also speaks to how atrocious Winston has been. Fitz's hooks is caught in a lot of mouths.

"Some teams don't even like their first quarterback, let alone their second quarterback," Koetter said.

He did not rule out going back to Winston.

The sun never sets on the big top at One Buc. That's a fact.

Contact Martin Fennelly at or (813) 731-8029