The Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost a 30-27 game against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday night, but the big question on Tuesday was whether Jameis Winston, who is back from suspension, or Ryan Fitzpatrick would be the starting quarterback for the Bucs’ next game against the Chicago Bears.
Head coach Dirk Koetter said on Tuesday that he and the two players know which one will be the starter on Sunday, but he is not going to divulge that information to the media and the public.
“I know there’s a lot of interest in the quarterback thing, and I did talk to both Jameis and Fitz, and it’s great to see Jameis back in the building,” Koetter said Tuesday. “He was here early and working hard. Welcomed Jameis back, we’re glad to have him, and short week, and he assured me he was ready to go, which I don’t doubt for a minute that he’s been working hard.
“So we know what we’re going to do, both guys know what we’re going to do, and I hope everybody can appreciate it doesn’t do us any good to tell our opponents what we’re going to do, so that’ll work itself out as the week goes on, but we do have a plan and both guys are aware of it.”
Winston has been the starter the past three seasons after being the No. 1 overall selection in the 2015 NFL Draft. And he would have begun this season as the starter if he had not been suspended for the first three games by the NFL for violating the league’s personal conduct policy.
But Fitzpatrick had been outstanding in Winston’s absence. He led the Bucs to victories in their first two games, and led a comeback attempt that fell just short against the Steelers. He did threw three interceptions in that game, though.
Fitzpatrick still leads the NFL in passing yards per game (410.0) and is second behind Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes in both touchdowns passes (11) and passer rating (124.8).
Koetter said he has plan for beyond this week as well.
But, he said, “You never really know how it’s going to go from week to week. Look at Chris Conte’s situation.”
Conte, the team’s starting safety, was put on injured reserve with a knee injury. He was injured in Monday’s game against Pittsburgh.
It leaves the Bucs with three rookies — Carlton Davis, M.J. Stewart and Jordan Whitehead — in the secondary when they are in a nickel defense.
Davis and Stewart were both second-round draft picks this year and Whitehead was taken in the fourth round. All three played extensively Monday.
“I thought Carlton Davis was outstanding in the game,” Koetter said. “For the guys he was he was having to cover, he showed no fear, the game wasn’t too big for him. He didn’t back down.”
He was complimentary regarding Stewart and Whitehead as well.
“Is there going to be some growing pains with three rookies in the secondary?” the head coach said, “Yeah, there’s going to be some growing pains, but we really like what those guys have shown.”
The biggest problem Monday was turnovers. The Bucs turned the ball over four times in the first half.
–S Chris Conte was placed on injured reserve after aggravating a knee injury. He had started the first three games this season and had 14 tackles.
–QB Ryan Fitzpatrick finished Monday’s game going 30 of 50 for 411 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions. It was Fitzpatrick’s third consecutive contest with at least 400 passing yards. He’s the first player in NFL history to post three consecutive games of 400 or more passing yards. His 11 touchdown passes through the first three games of a season are the third most in history.
–WR Mike Evans had 137 receiving yards on Monday, giving him a season total of 367 receiving yards, which ranks second in the league.
–WR DeSean Jackson was limited to 37 receiving yards on Monday after having 275 yards in the first two games. He had just three catches against the Steelers.
–RB Peyton Barber led the team in rushing on Monday with 33 yards. He leads the team in rushing for the season with just 124 yards, while averaging 2.9 yards per carry.
–DE Jason Pierre-Paul had two sacks on Monday. That gives him three of the team’s seven sacks for the season.