A quarterback controversy has surprisingly materialized in Tampa Bay, where journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick is playing the best football of his career as former No. 1 pick Jameis Winston serves his three-game suspension. After Fitzpatrick led the Buccaneers to upset wins over the Saints and Eagles, it's no longer a joke to wonder if Fitzpatrick should keep the starting job over Winston when he becomes eligible to play again.
But as the rest of the NFL world wonders how the Buccaneers will handle the situation, Dirk Koetter is refusing to address the controversy. On Monday, the coach of the Buccaneers wouldn't indicate which way he's leaning.
"I won't be the one getting into that," Koetter told reporters, via NFL.com. "We'll worry about that when the time comes. Right now we're going to start working on Pittsburgh and that's all that matters right now. Everything else is in the future because it could all change just like that."
The time is coming soon, though. After the Buccaneers play the Steelers, Winston is Before their Week 4 game against the Bears, the Buccaneers will have to either bench their franchise quarterback for Fitzpatrick or they'll have to bench one of the hottest quarterbacks in football for a quarterback who's yet to live up to the hype that came attached to him when he entered the league.
Fitzpatrick's performance against the Steelers might determine how the Buccaneers decide to proceed, but it's worth noting that if Winston were eligible to return this week, the Buccaneers would likely have a difficult time benching Fitzpatrick. In two games against two defenses that finished last season as top-10 units by DVOA, Fitzpatrick has completed 78.7 percent of his passes for 819 yards, eight touchdowns, one pick, and a 151.5 passer rating. , Fitzpatrick would be the talk of the NFL right now and maybe even the leader for MVP.
"I don't know what you want me to say," Koetter said. "The guy has played a lot of NFL football. He's putting the ball on the money, he's making good decisions. He's not turning the ball over."
If Fitzpatrick plays well against the Steelers, I'm not really sure how the Buccaneers will justify sitting him down. At the very least, they can play Fitzpatrick until he struggles -- given that he's still Ryan Fitzpatrick, he probably will struggle at some point -- at which point they can insert Winston into the starting lineup. Fitzpatrick hasn't been a good enough quarterback over the course of his career to earn complete and total job security after two incredible performances and Winston hasn't been a good enough quarterback over the course of his career to automatically get his starting job back over a quarterback playing out of his damn mind.
The good news for the Buccaneers is that this unexpected conundrum is the good kind of problem to have. Nobody expected the Buccaneers to start 2-0 without Winston, but they did. Now, they have one of hottest quarterbacks in football as their starter while a pretty darn good quarterback waits for his chance to regain his starting job as soon as the hot hand cools off. In a 32-team league that so rarely features 32 starting-caliber quarterbacks, that's a ideal situation for a team to find itself in.