The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have changed their starting quarterback twice in 2018. They will not be doing so a third time, at least not in Week 11.
Head Coach Dirk Koetter announced on Monday that Ryan Fitzpatrick will remain under center for the Buccaneers when they head to the Meadowlands this weekend for a game against the New York Giants. Fitzpatrick took over for Jameis Winston in Week Nine and, although Tampa Bay has lost their two games since, Koetter still feels that the 14th-year veteran currently gives his team its best chance to win.
"We're going to go with Fitz this week," said Koetter. "I just think he still gives us the best opportunity right now."
Fitzpatrick began the season as the Buccaneers' starter while Winston was serving a three-game suspension levied by the NFL. The first change was essentially planned in advance, as Fitzpatrick got the start in Game Four at Chicago but the Bucs went back to Winston over the subsequent bye week. Winston started the next three games, including a loss at Atlanta and an overtime win over Cleveland, but was pulled in the second half at Cincinnati after throwing four interceptions. After he nearly rallied the team from a 21-point deficit to victory over the Bengals, Fitzpatrick got the job back.
View photos of the Buccaneers' Week 10 matchup against the Washington Redskins.
Actually, the motivation to stay with Fitzpatrick could be considered a two-part decision: Koetter believes he gives the team its best chance to win and, crucially, he believes that still matters. Though a run from 3-6 to the postseason is a difficult proposition, that remains the priority at this point over other goals, such as giving Winston a longer look before he heads into his fifth-year option.
"I understand that," said Koetter of the option to play Winston. "I understand that, but we're right in there. It's just barely past the halfway point in the season and there's a lot of football to be played. 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. We've got to play better football more consistently across the board. Our defense took a nice step in that direction yesterday. I still think if we can put it together on both sides of the ball we'll be alright."
In fact, when the Buccaneers went back to Fitzpatrick two weeks ago, the main reason was Winston's 10 interceptions in 13 quarter of play. Unfortunately, the Bucs have turned it over six more times in the last two games, in both cases short-circuiting what could have been winning efforts. Most notably, the Buccaneers scored only three points in Sunday's loss to Washington despite gaining 501 yards of offense. Red zone woes were the primary culprit, and turnovers played a big part in that.
Whoever is at the helm of Tampa Bay's offense, the turnover problem has to be solved. Koetter said there is "no question" that the team believes it would start winning consistently if it fix that one issue. The Buccaneers will try to do so by staying with Fitzpatrick at quarterback.
"Well, turnovers are killing us right now," said Koetter. "We're minus-19, we're last in the league, 13 in the last four games, 13 turnovers and no takeaways. That's by far the number-one thing that's hurting our team. [We] have talked about it many times – every turnover has its own story. If there was one thing to it, it would be easy to fix. As a team, we're turning it over too much and not getting any takeaways on the other side."