Tampa Bay’s Ryan Fitzpatrick must get the nod over Jameis Winston

The electrifying Ryan Fitzpatrick gave Cincinnati Bengals a scare by hauling the Buccaneers level. Picture: AP.
The electrifying Ryan Fitzpatrick gave Cincinnati Bengals a scare by hauling the Buccaneers level. Picture: AP.
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Fitzmagic was back for Tampa Bay Buccaneer fans on Sunday. At the start of this season, the 14- year veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick stepped up and led the Buccaneers offence to 102 points in the opening three games.

On Sunday Fitzmagic almost pulled another rabbit out of the hat as he entered the game with his team down by 18 points. Entering the game 34-16 down Fitzpatrick led them back to 34 all, only for Cincinnati Bengals to spoil the party with a last-second field goal.

At the start of the season, Fitzpatrick was handed the reins of the offence after starting quarterback Jameis Winston was served a three-game suspension by the league for an incident with a female Uber driver in 2016.

Winston was lucky to be allowed back in the league at all, but, if anything, the NFL fanbase is forgiving – unless you take a knee to protest inequality. Fitzpatrick was considered suitable cover for the Winston suspension, having played for seven teams in his time in the league.

He was electrifying, and the Tampa fans coined the phrase “Fitzmagic” while beards became the must-have addition to fans game-day attire. Not only was the Harvard graduate cutting up opposing defences, but he was making the fans and media fall in love with him all over again.

Unfortunately for Bucs fans and Fitzpatrick, the spell was broken when Winston returned to eligibility, and, after one interception in a game against Chicago, 2015’s first pick in The Draft was back, with Fitzpatrick returning to the bench.

What became evident this week, as Winston was pulled from the game, was that the Buccaneers have nine games to decide on Winston’s $20million one-year option, and on this performance, the answer must be no.

Winston is a player who courts controversy, and many organisations have questioned his suitability to play in the league at all.

As a player, he is undoubtedly talented, but his on-field statistics point to a sloppy player who makes the wrong decision more times than not. Since returning to the starting line-up, Winston has thrown six touchdowns against ten interceptions and has also fumbled the ball four times.

What is considered acceptable in the NFL is a ratio of three touchdowns to each interception and Winston is way short of that number.

All this points to the fact that Fitzpatrick must start as quarterback next week for the Buccaneers and could even be the answer to the next few seasons. Fitzpatrick won’t bring the magic every week, but he will steady the ship and allow the Tampa Bay management to pick up a new quarterback.

Fitzpatrick is also the ideal candidate to mentor a young quarterback going forward.

With Winston’s fourth interception on Sunday, it is time to draw a line under Jameis Winston in at least Tampa and maybe even the NFL. The Buccaneers need to move on, and they would be foolish to commit $20million to the Florida State product next year.

Around the league, the LA Rams continued their unbeaten start with a tight win over Green Bay but face a tough test next week when they travel to New Orleans in a battle between the two best records in the NFC. The Saints are now on a six-game win streak having not lost since week one. Arizona Cardinals managed a tight win over San Fransisco 49ers to pick up their second win of the season.

The Oakland Raiders who traded away star wide receiver Amari Cooper earlier in the week lost to the Indianapolis Colts 42-28, leaving more questions marks over Jon Gruden as head coach. When you throw into the mix rumours that the Raiders have starting quarterback Derek Carr available for trade, it looks like Gruden is stripping the organisation for a long-term rebuild.

Houston Texans picked up a fifth win in a row to take control of the AFC South after division rivals Jacksonville came up short against Philadelphia Eagles. In the NFC East Washington overcame a resilient New York Giants defence to win 20-13 to continue their quite push for the playoffs.