Tampa Bay Buccaneers: New confidence in Ryan Fitzpatrick for 2018

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - NOVEMBER 19: Ryan Fitzpatrick #14 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers warms up prior to a game against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium on November 19, 2017 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
MIAMI GARDENS, FL - NOVEMBER 19: Ryan Fitzpatrick #14 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers warms up prior to a game against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium on November 19, 2017 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images) /

It didn’t take long for HBO to showcase just how important Jameis Winston is to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers when they followed the team during 2017’s training camp. They also didn’t take long to show just how much the players felt their own success hinged on his being on the field.

When legend-in-the-making Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy made contact with Jameis Winston’s throwing arm on the first day of 2017’s camp, it was highlighted just how much of a no-no that is.

While talking to media members, McCoy said,

"“Three is the franchise. Forget 93, forget 13, 11 and 1 (referring to DeSean Jackson who wears the number one during camp, but eleven in games)….three is the one. If three ain’t out there, ehhh.”"

Now, this certainly wasn’t meant as a slight towards back-ups Ryan Fitzpatrick and Ryan Griffin, but it really just stated the obvious. Winston was, and is, the Bucs’ best shot at having a franchise quarterback.

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Franchise quarterbacks are an interesting topic of conversation. Peyton Manning was a franchise quarterback. So is or was Joe Flacco. The second one may not be one very much longer as his franchise changes their direction and what they need from the position.

The term ‘franchise quarterback’ is not a defined value, more a relative definition. What it means is, the quarterback carrying the label is tied indefinitely to his team’s future.

As soon as the eyes of the team start wandering around looking for a possible replacement, he is no longer the franchise quarterback. Hence the reason Flacco is no longer in the discussion of franchise quarterbacks for many. Now, it’s possible Winston might not be either.

However, what also changes in these situations is the feelings surrounding other players. See, the Ravens have a new quarterback to ooh and awe about. The quarterback many feel is their future of the franchise. Their next potential franchise quarterback. Lamar Jackson.

For Tampa, there’s no new guy. At least not right now. There’s an old guy. Old in the sense that he’s aged, and also because he was on the team last year. He was the guy who replaced Winston when he went out with a shoulder injury. He’s the guy McCoy’s ‘ehhh’ was indirectly referring to. Ryan Fitzpatrick.

This year however, the thought of Fitzpatrick starting is being spoken of a little bit differently. According to ESPN’s Josina Anderson, McCoy told her the team believes in Fitzpatrick. He also referenced the Philadelphia Eagles and their ability to win with a back-up quarterback.

Here is all of what Anderson had to say about the Winston situation and her conversation with McCoy:

Going from ‘ehhh’ to ‘we believe’ is a little different. Perhaps it’s the experience the team now has with Fitzpatrick. Going into his second-year with the team, and having played some games with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last season, it’s easy to see the potential for success and growth in year two.

Perhaps the growth in confidence is just football talk. I mean, in the first comment on Winston being out, there was an option of sorts. Injury is not guaranteed necessarily. The second comment comes with the expectation of having to win with Fitzpatrick. Do we really think McCoy is going to come out and say the team is screwed without Jameis?

However, there’s also the potential this is more of what most of us have been talking about. Waning trust. See, the quarterback has publicly defended his innocence. We don’t actually know what he did or didn’t tell the team and his teammates, but if it’s anything like what he said in public, then trust is likely an eroding word when talking about his status in the locker room.

A lack of trust will lead the players and the franchise into a search for their next franchise quarterback. It won’t be Fitzpatrick, but having confidence in him may signal the falling confidence in the one who came before him.

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Bottom line is, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers likely won’t have a franchise quarterback to open the 2018 NFL Season. They’ll be looking for one though. Advantage for Winston is he’ll get first crack at regaining the title.

Until then, the team will have to find their own sense of confidence with Fitzpatrick leading the offense, McCoy leading the defense and fans everywhere holding their breath to see what happens next.