Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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Data Crunch: QB Debut Starts

Ryan Fitzpatrick will become the 39th quarterback to open a game for the Buccaneers on Sunday, and just about the most experienced ever to make his starting debut for the franchise

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On Sunday, Ryan Fitzpatrick will start a regular-season game for the seventh different team of his NFL career. The fact that it comes against the team for which he most recently played before joining the Tampa Buccaneers, and that he will be opposed by a quarterback who has also started for six different teams, adds some color to his latest starting debut.

What the Buccaneers care about the most when sending him out to relieve the injured Jameis Winston, however, is not the opposing team (the New York Jets) or the opposing quarterback (Josh McCown), but that Fitzpatrick already has 116 NFL starts under his belt. Tampa Bay is counting on that experience to help Fitzpatrick hit the ground running.

In this respect, Fitzpatrick is unlike almost every quarterback who has ever made his starting debut in a Buccaneers uniform. He will become the 39th different play to open a regular-season game under center for the franchise, but only the third one who already had at least 100 career starts before doing so. If one chooses not to count Jim Zorn, who started a single replacement game during the 1987 players' strike, Fitzpatrick is only the second Buccaneer to fit that description.

Most Career Starts at Quarterback Before First Bucs Start

**Quarterback** **Start Date ** **Previous Starts ** **Age at Start ** **Opponent** **Outcome**
Joe Ferguson 10/30/88 168 38 Miami L, 17-14
Ryan Fitzpatrick 11/12/17 116 34 N.Y. Jets TBD
Jim Zorn* 10/18/87 105 34 Minnesota W, 20-10
Jeff Garcia 9/9/07 92 37 Seattle L, 20-6
Brian Griese 10/18/04 66 29 St. Louis L, 28-21
Brad Johnson 9/9/01 50 32 Dallas W, 10-6
Steve DeBerg 9/23/84 46 30 N.Y. Giants L, 17-14
Byron Leftwich 9/13/09 46 29 Dallas L, 34-21
Josh McCown 9/7/14 38 35 Carolina L, 20-14
Rob Johnson 10/27/02 27 29 Carolina W, 12-9

( 1987 replacement player)

Of the 38 players to start at quarterback for the Buccaneers before Fitzpatrick, 16 were also making their first NFL start, a list that includes former first-round draft picks Doug Williams, Vinny Testaverde, Trent Dilfer, Josh Freeman and Jameis Winston, as well as former USFL dispersal draft first-rounder Steve Young. All 16 of those quarterbacks, unsurprisingly, were 25 years old or younger. Fitzpatrick, in contrast, is the fifth oldest quarterback to make his Buccaneer starting debut.

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**Quarterback** **Start Date ** **Previous Starts ** **Age at Start ** **Opponent** **Outcome**
Joe Ferguson 10/30/88 168 38 Miami L, 17-14
Jeff Garcia 9/9/07 92 37 Seattle L, 20-6
John Reaves 10/4/87 15 37 Detroit W, 31-27
Josh McCown 9/7/14 38 35 Carolina L, 20-14
Ryan Fitzpatrick 11/12/17 116 34 N.Y. Jets TBD
Jim Zorn* 10/18/87 105 34 Minnesota W, 20-10
Brad Johnson 9/9/01 50 32 Dallas W, 10-6
Steve Spurrier 9/12/76 26 31 Houston L, 20-0
Steve DeBerg 9/23/84 46 30 N.Y. Giants L, 17-14
Brian Griese 10/18/04 66 29 St. Louis L, 28-21

( 1987 replacement player)

Fitzpatrick is trying to become the 11th quarterback to win his first start as a Buccaneer. The 10-28 combined record for the previous 38 starters is particularly lopsided because the first 12 players on the list all lost, many of them in the franchise's difficult early years. Four straight quarterbacks won their Buccaneer starting debuts during the team's "Super Bowl era" – Shaun King, Brad Johnson, Rob Johnson, Chris Simms – and more recently Tim Rattay (2006), Luke McCown (2007) and Freeman (2009) all did so. The full list of 38 quarterbacks is at the bottom of this page, listed in chronological order.

Fitzpatrick could become the oldest quarterback to win his first start for the Buccaneers, if one chooses to exclude the '87 replacement players. Before Zorn got his one start, John Reaves opened the first two strike games and won the first one, at Detroit, 31-27. Reaves was 37 at the time. Discounting replacement players, the oldest quarterback to win his first Bucs start is Brad Johnson, who guided the team to victory in Dallas in the 2001 season opener, at the age of 32.

*When asked this Thursday to run down his fondest memories from each of his previous NFL stops, Fitzpatrick mostly recounted interactions with friends, neighbors and teammates, as opposed to any on-field successes. However, his collection of debut starts in the NFL should be mostly positive memories, not to mention encouraging history for the Buccaneers. Fitzpatrick lost his first two debut starts but has won three of the last four as he has gained experience.

**Fitzpatrick's Team** **Date** **Start #** **Age** **Opponent** **Outcome**
St. Louis 11/27/05 1 23 Washington L, 24-9
Cincinnati 9/28/08 4 25 Cleveland L, 35-21
Buffalo 10/25/09 16 26 Carolina W, 20-9
Tennessee 10/6/13 69 30 Kansas City L, 26-17
Houston 9/7/14 78 31 Washington W, 30-14
N.Y. Jets 9/13/15 90 32 Cleveland W, 31-10

Before his first start as a Buccaneer, Fitzpatrick had relief performances at Arizona in Week Six and at New Orleans last Sunday. He played a bit less than three quarters against the Cardinals and exactly one half against the Saints. In that time, which equates to about one and a quarter games, Fitzpatrick threw 48 times and completed 30 of them for 358 yards, four touchdowns, two interceptions and a passer rating of 95.7 (including one incomplete pass thrown against Chicago in Week One). If he can approach any of those numbers on Sunday against the Jets he could end up as the most prolific debut starter in Bucs history. Here are the top marks in five different passing categories for QBs making their first starts with Tampa Bay:

**Category** **Total** **Quarterback** **Date** **Opponent**
Attempts 47 Vinny Testaverde 12/6/87 New Orleans
Completions 29 Eric Zeier 10/31/99 Detroit
29 Luke McCown 12/2/07 New Orleans
Yards 369 Vinny Testaverde 12/6/87 New Orleans
Touchdowns 3 Josh Freeman 11/8/09 Green Bay
Passer Rating* 108.7 Luke McCown 12/2/07 New Orleans

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Every Quarterback Starting Debut for Buccaneers:

**Quarterback** **Start Date ** **Previous Starts ** **Age at Start ** **Opponent** **Outcome**
Joe Ferguson 10/30/88 168 38 Miami L, 17-14
Jeff Garcia 9/9/07 92 37 Seattle L, 20-6
John Reaves 10/4/87 15 37 Detroit W, 31-27
Josh McCown 9/7/14 38 35 Carolina L, 20-14
Ryan Fitzpatrick 11/12/17 116 34 N.Y. Jets TBD
Jim Zorn 10/18/87 105 34 Minnesota W, 20-10
Brad Johnson 9/9/01 50 32 Dallas W, 10-6
Steve Spurrier 9/12/76 26 31 Houston L, 20-0
Steve DeBerg 9/23/84 46 30 N.Y. Giants L, 17-14
Brian Griese 10/18/04 66 29 St. Louis L, 28-21
Byron Leftwich 9/13/09 46 29 Dallas L, 34-21
Rob Johnson 10/27/02 27 29 Carolina W, 12-9
Tim Rattay 12/24/06 16 29 Cleveland W, 22-7
Jerry Golsteyn 9/4/83 6 29 Detroit L, 11-0
Terry Hanratty 12/5/76 17 28 Pittsburgh L, 42-0
Mike Boryla 9/9/78 18 27 Detroit L, 15-7
Eric Zeier 10/31/99 11 27 Detroit L, 20-3
Jack Thompson 9/18/83 5 27 Minnesota L, 19-16
Mike Rae 11/12/78 3 27 Detroit L, 34-23
Gary Huff 10/2/77 22 26 Dallas L, 23-7
Luke McCown 12/2/07 4 26 New Orleans W, 27-23
Chris Chandler 10/28/90 18 25 San Diego L, 41-10
Jeff Carlson 12/14/91 0 25 Chicago L, 27-0
Steve Young 11/24/85 0 24 Detroit W, 19-16
Vinny Testaverde 12/6/87 0 24 New Orleans L, 44-34
Chris Simms 10/10/04 0 24 New Orleans W, 20-17
Parnell Dickinson 10/24/76 0 23 Miami L, 23-20
Randy Hedberg 9/18/77 0 23 Philadelphia L, 13-3
Jeb Blount 10/30/77 0 23 San Francisco L, 20-10
Doug Williams 9/2/78 0 23 N.Y. Giants L, 19-13
Craig Erickson 9/12/93 0 23 N.Y. Giants L, 23-7
Bruce Gradkowski 10/8/06 0 23 New Orleans L, 24-21
Josh Johnson 10/4/09 0 23 Washington L, 16-13
Mike Glennon 9/29/13 0 23 Arizona L, 13-10
Trent Dilfer 10/23/94 0 22 San Francisco L, 41-16
Shaun King 12/6/99 0 22 Minnesota W, 24-17
Josh Freeman 11/8/09 0 21 Green Bay W, 38-28
Jameis Winston 9/13/15 0 21 Tennessee L, 42-14
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