The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will play the first three games of the regular season without the services of their starting quarterback, Jameis Winston. Fans and media seem to be concerned about the drop from Winston to his backup, Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Coach Dirk Koetter isn’t.
Via JoeBucsFan.com, Koetter gushed about Fitzpatrick during a Friday press conference.
“There’s no reason for us to be afraid of Ryan playing quarterback for us,” Koetter said early in the questioning.
“Ryan’s a really good leader, too,” Koetter said later in the session. “He’s a different type of leader, all right? If you’ve been around people at all, you know that not all leaders are the same. I mean, that goes throughout history. Jameis is a vocal leader. And Ryan is a little bit less vocal leader, but still a real good leader nonetheless. I think his style will show up.
“When a backup quarterback is brought to a team, especially a veteran, the coaching staff tells him that he’s there to be the backup, to support the starter. Well, that’s not the case right now. I think we’ll see and I think the players will feel what I saw way back many years ago, the type of leader Ryan is, when it’s his show.”
So what will happen when it’s Ryan’s show? At one point, Koetter broke from his standard press conference demeanor and expressed a combination of exasperation and amusement.
“Guys, we’re not gonna miss a beat with Ryan at quarterback,” Fitzpatrick said. “I don’t know if everybody’s worried about that or not, but I’m certainly not.”
This could simply be a product of Koetter trying to best play the hand he’s been dealt. With Winston gone for games against the Saints, Eagles, and Steelers and Fitzpatrick the next man up, Koetter has no choice but to try to whip up a batch of chicken salad in order to avoid going 0-3.
But there also could be something more to it. With Koetter recently not committing to Winston for Week Four and in light of the decision of the team to expunge Winston from its major marketing efforts, maybe the Bucs have decided to give Fitzpatrick a chance to seize the job from Jameis, since that would allow the Bucs to put Winston in bubble wrap for the year, avoiding the $20.9 million injury guarantee that becomes fully guaranteed if Winston suffers an injury that keeps him from passing a physical in March.
That would all be avoided if the Bucs would simply sign Winston to a contract revision that protects them against this outcome. And maybe the team’s leverage isn’t simply that they’d cut him if he won’t agree to it. Maybe the Bucs are thinking about keeping Jameis on the bench until he signs a new deal that takes away the injury guarantee for 2019.