Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter announced on Monday that Jameis Winston will be the Bucs’ starting quarterback for their next game on Oct. 14 against the Atlanta Falcons.
Winston had been suspended for the first three games for violating the NFL’s policy on personal conduct, and Ryan Fitzpatrick started the Buccaneers’ first four games, including Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears.
Winston replaced Koetter in the second half Sunday with the Bucs trailing 38-3, but Koetter said that was merely a way for Winston to get some playing time in a game that was out of reach, not a reflection on Fitzpatrick.
The Bucs have a bye this week, so the team has two weeks to rest and prepare for the Falcons.
Koetter said he had planned some time ago for Winston to start in the fifth game.
“Last summer I was on vacation when I got the call that Jameis would be suspended for three games,” he said. “First think I did was look at our schedule, see where we were, and I saw that Pittsburgh was our third game on a Monday night, Chicago was our fourth game, on the road, short week, so in the back of my mind from that point on, I kind of had it in my head that Fitz would start the first four games and Jameis would start in Atlanta unless we were either playing lights out in a good way, or lights out like we did yesterday in a bad way.”
Fitzpatrick was outstanding in the Buccaneers’ first three games, but was less effective in his half of action in the 48-10 loss to the Bears. He went 9 of 18 for 126 yards, no touchdowns and one interception. He was sacked twice.
“In no way is this on Fitz that we lost the way we did yesterday,” Koetter said. “Fitz didn’t play as well as he had been playing, but this was 100 percent a team deal.”
Koetter said Fitzpatrick was brought in two years ago to be a mentor to Winston and somebody who could play if Winston was unavailable.
Koetter noted Fitzpatrick went 2-1 as a starter last season and 2-2 this year.
“I think any team in the league would take that,” the coach said.
But, he said, Winston is the quarterback going forward.
“Jameis is the guy that’s going to be here way longer than I am, so he needs to be out there playing, and he will be — unless he gets hurt — in Atlanta.”
In his first action of the season on Sunday, Winston went 16 of 20 for 145 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. He was sacked twice.
Koetter noted that Winston ran the huddle well and ran well when needed.
“He hasn’t forgotten how to scramble,” Koetter said.
But Winston also missed on some throws that showed his lack of recent game experience. Koetter reasoned it was better to miss those throws in a game in which the team was already getting blown out than against the Falcons.
–Tight end O.J. Howard is expected to be sidelined a few weeks with a sprained knee, Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said Monday. It had been reported earlier that Howard would be out two-to-four weeks, but Koetter did not offer a timeline. Howard has recorded 11 receptions for 222 yards and a touchdown in four games this season.
— DE Jason Pierre-Paul recorded his fourth sack of the season on Sunday. He became the first Buccaneers’ player to post a sack in at least three consecutive games since 2016.
–WR DeSean Jackson had five catches for 112 yards Sunday. On the season, Jackson has 424 receiving yards, the seventh-most in the NFL.
–WR Mike Evans caught six passes for 59 yards in Sunday’s game. He ranks sixth in the league, with 426 receiving yards, the most ever by a Buccaneers player through the team’s first four games.
–TE Cameron Brate caught a 16-yard touchdown pass on Sunday. Brate now has two touchdown catches this season and 19 in his career.