Koetter delays QB talk until Jameis Winston returns

Koetter delays QB talk until Jameis Winston returns

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a looming decision to make at the quarterback position.

Jameis Winston is eligible to return from a three-game suspension after Week 3’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but the Buccaneers are off to a 2-0 start with Ryan Fitzpatrick under center.

Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter elected to punt for now when asked Monday what happens when Winston returns.

“I won’t be the one getting into that,” Koetter told reporters. “We’ll worry about that when the time comes. Right now we’re going to start working on Pittsburgh and that’s all that matters right now. Everything else is in the future because it could all change just like that.”

The Buccaneers can publicly choose to bypass the question on everyone’s mind ahead of next week, but the decision will likely need to be made sooner than later.

Without Winston, the Buccaneers‘ passing game has exploded. Fitzpatrick has thrown for more than 400 yards in two consecutive games and currently leads the league in yards passing (819) and passer rating among starting quarterbacks (151.5), and ranks second in touchdown passes (eight) and third in completion percentage (78.7).

“I don’t know what you want me to say,” Koetter told reporters. “The guy has played a lot of football has played a lot of NFL football. He’s putting the ball on the money, he’s making good decisions. He’s not turning the ball over.”

Fitzpatrick does have one interception, which Koetter said wasn’t the signal-caller’s fault, but he has also accomplished something Winston couldn’t consistently do in 2017.

The Buccaneers signed wide receiver DeSean Jackson as a free agent last offseason to provide a deep threat opposite of Mike Evans, but Jackson totaled 50 catches for 668 yards and three touchdowns. With Fitzpatrick in 2018, Jackson has posted two straight 100-yard receiving efforts with three touchdowns.

Additonally, Fitzpatrick has a key statistic in two seasons with the Buccaneers that affects the win-loss column. When including the two games of the 2018 regualar season, Fitzpatrick is 4-1 when called upon to start for Winston, who holds an 18-27 career mark.

What the Buccaneers elect to do at quarterback when Winston returns to the active roster remains unknown. Fitzpatrick’s scorching hot play, however, will make the decision extremely tough to potentially bench him given the momentum, which has resulted in an early-season lead in the competitive NFC South.