Who would have thought? After a 5-11 disaster in 2017 and a suspended starting quarterback to start the new 2018 campaign, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are 2-0. And, they have done it all because of a 14-year veteran quarterback named Ryan Fitzpatrick. As a result, there is now some controversy at the position. Will incumbent starter Jameis Winston, suspended for violating the league’s personal conduct policy, be thrust back into the starting lineup upon completion of his suspension?
Fitz-Magic Now with his seventh NFL team, Fitzpatrick is the consummate backup quarterback. Or is he? In the two games, he has started this season for the Bucs, Fitzpatrick has thrown for over 400 yards and has four touchdown passes in each game. Last week, he was magical in a 27-21 win over defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia. As a result, Tampa Bay is 2-0 and sits alone atop the NFC South, a spot the team has not seen in several years. For the season, Fitzpatrick is 48-of-61 –that’s an astonishing 78.7 percent! – for an NFL-best 819 yards and eight touchdowns. He has thrown just one interception and added a rushing touchdown in the Week 1 win over New Orleans.
No, Seriously, F-it’s Magic How many quarterbacks have started a season with consecutive 400-yard, four-touchdown games? Exactly one – Ryan Fitzpatrick. No Tampa Bay quarterback ever has had 400-plus passing yards in consecutive games. Fitzpatrick is the first Buccaneers quarterback to throw eight touchdown passes in his first two games. Of his eight touchdown throws, four of them have been for 50 yards or more. Only one other quarterback has ever done that in his first two games. His name was Joe Namath.
He’s Done It Before Fitzpatrick isn’t your ordinary backup quarterback. He has spent nine of his fourteen NFL seasons as a starting quarterback for at least half of a season. Most recently, he was the starter for the New York Jets in 2015 and 2016. In ’15, Fitzpatrick set career-high marks for passing yards (3,905) and touchdowns (31). He also ran the ball a career-high 60 times and averaged 4.5 yards per carry that season. Fitzpatrick is a career 60 percent passer and has over 27,000 passing yards. Don’t forget he is a Harvard graduate who scored 48 on his Wonderlic test at the NFL combine in 2005. Oh yeah,…he finished the test in nine minutes. To say Fitzpatrick is extremely intelligent is probably an understatement.
Can It Last? Tampa Bay plays Pittsburgh next Monday night in front of its home crowd. The Steelers just gave up six touchdown passes to Kansas City QB Patrick Mahomes. Even if Fitzpatrick regresses to a 250-yard, two-touchdown performance in a Bucs’ victory, would that be enough to start Winston in Week 4? Last year, when Winston was out with a shoulder injury, Fitzpatrick started three games and led Tampa Bay to a 2-1 mark. He has done it before and he can do it again. If Fitzpatrick has the hot hand, let him finish what he has started. Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter might be more concerned with his defense. The Bucs have given up over 400 yards of offense in both games this season.