Jameis Winston is the Buccaneers’ best quarterback, but head coach Dirk Koetter isn’t ready to commit to him starting when his suspension is over.
If there was any doubt, Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter has made it clear Ryan Fitzpatrick will start the first three games of the season while Jameis Winston serves his suspension. But when given the opportunity to confirm Winston will start in Week 4, Koetter was absolutely non-committal. Via JoeBucsFan.com:
“Week 4 is a long ways away,” Koetter said. “Week 4 is a long ways away. So, you know, let’s worry about Week 4 in Week 4. Right now, let’s worry about preseason and getting ready for the Saints.”
Koetter could have squashed any potential quarterback controversy right away. But if the Buccaneers somehow go 3-0 against the New Orleans Saints, Philadelphia Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers with Fitzpatrick starting, a change would be hard to make. Week 3 against the Steelers is also a Monday night game, with a short week for Winston to be ready to play Week 4 against the Bears. Then Buccaneers have their bye in Week 5.
Apart from the result of the first three games for Tampa Bay, which is more likely to be 0-3 than 3-0, the path to Winston not making his 2018 regular season debut until at least Week 6 against the Falcons can be paved.
An added layer to the situation is the $20.9 million, guaranteed only for injury, Winston is due to make in 2019. If the view of Winston as the face of the franchise is dimmed enough, sitting him all season to not expose him to injury or cutting him stand out among the options. Any possible negotiations for a new contract are also complicated by Winston’s search for a new agent.
Winston has already been removed from the team’s promotional plans for the coming season. But if they end up keeping him off the field after the bye week, assuming he’s full healthy, there’s a chance (however remote) that Winston has already taken his last meaningful snap in a Buccaneers’ uniform.