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Searching for logic in the Bucs’ decision to stick with Ryan Fitzpatrick

Ryan Fitzpatrick will make his seventh start this season for the Bucs when they play a 1 p.m. game Sunday against the New York Giants in East Rutherford, N.J. MONICA HERNDON   |   Times
Ryan Fitzpatrick will make his seventh start this season for the Bucs when they play a 1 p.m. game Sunday against the New York Giants in East Rutherford, N.J. MONICA HERNDON | Times
Published Nov. 12, 2018

TAMPA — Move along. Nothing to see here.

Here at the booby hatch, the Bucs are so far gone that they're going back to Ryan Fitzpatrick this Sunday in New York.

Who can blame them?

That fourth win is so close they can taste it.

For a moment Sunday, I thought the Bucs' 16-3 loss to Washington had served the greater good, ending all delusions and what ifs.

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It was time to put Jameis Winston, and all his faults, back in and leave him there, starting this Sunday at the Giants. It was time to nail-gun Winston to the starting job to finish this lost season.

Someone forgot to tell the Bucs.

"We're going to with Fitz this week, that's how it's going to be," Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said. "Until we change. A guy could get hurt at any time. I don't know when. I just think (Fitzpatrick) still gives us the best opportunity right now."

Got all that?

There is no good reason to keep playing Fitzpatrick, who threw for 400 yards Sunday but who blew up just the same, with two bad interceptions and a fumble. Winston could throw two picks and fumble in his sleep. But what was this season all about, anyway?

Due diligence on the quarterback.

Instead, the Bucs are performing due diligence on … the kicker.

If there's a six percent chance of Winston catching fire, I'd take it. It beats zero percent chance of Fitzpatrick being the long-term answer here. Really, what good does he do you next season?

This is pointless, directionless.

In other words, it's the Bucs.

Does winning seven games instead of six, or six instead of five, really matter that much?

It does tell you something: What do the Bucs really think of Winston if they won't put him back in after Sunday, when Fitz faltered badly, when the team added a dubious mark to its history book, the first NFL team to have at least 500 yards of offense and score three points or less?

In Koetter's defense, no man should be asked to go down with the ship without having his hands on deck. It's not a coach's job to think about the long-term future, especially if he has none.

It has been incumbent on Bucs GM Jason Licht to decide what's best for this franchise's future, but Licht passed on that decision a while back, which should mean he isn't at all part of the future here — and that was before he sat on his hands at the trade deadline.

Put Winston back in, admit you swallowed the bait that is Fitzpatrick, not once, but twice.

The Bucs already don't have anything to play for the rest of the season. I blame the win over the Browns, that fool's gold. This team should have been circling who to keep (like Evans, Godwin, Howard, Marpet, Alexander, David) and dumping the rest at the trade deadline. And it didn't.

Sunday could have been a cleansing moment, but it wasn't.

The season is over. Put No. 3 in at quarterback. Build toward next season, build toward constructive answers, even though Licht didn't manage that kind of thinking.

By the way, if the Bucs go 3-4 the rest of the way, a tall order, Licht's record as GM over five seasons will be 28-52 — the same as his predecessor, Mark Dominik. And Dominik didn't even draft a quarterback at No.1 overall.

At least we thought we were done with the nonsense, the illusion that this team has an immediate future. Forget lunatic playoff scenarios. Just try to hold Saquon Barkley and Odell Beckham Jr. under 300 yards on Sunday.

Not so fast.

"I don't think it's out of the realm of possibility that we can turn this thing and get on a little bit of a win streak," Koetter said. "I still think, if we can put it together on both sides of the ball, we'll be all right."

Yeah, if Fitz can just get them that fourth win.

The madness rolls on.

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