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  • Winston was forced to take a seat after throwing four interceptions against the Bengals. Could his time in Tampa be coming to an end sooner than expected?
By Kalyn Kahler
October 29, 2018

You’ve probably heard by now that Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston was benched after throwing four interceptions in a 37–34 loss to the Bengals on Sunday. This was Winston’s third career game with at least four interceptions, and most of his mistakes on Sunday were on him, not his receivers. One throw was so blatantly bad it might more appropriately be labeled as a catch… credited to Bengals linebacker Preston Brown.

Ryan Fitzpatrick came into the game in the third quarter in place of Winston and on his second series of the game, he hit Mike Evans for a 72-yard touchdown pass, his fifth passing touchdown of 50 or more yards this season. But despite erasing an 18-point deficit to tie the game at 34 points, the Fitzmagic wasn’t quite enough and the Bengals escaped with the win on a last-second field goal.

After the game, Winston told reporters he is determined to fix his turnover problem, but it finally feels like he’s out of time. The 24-year-old QB has had three full seasons and four games this year to improve in that area, yet he still hasn’t shown any signs of real progress. Winston has thrown at least two interceptions in each of his four appearances this season, and though he was suspended for the first three games of the season, he is now tied for the league lead in interceptions (10). In 49 games in his NFL career, Winston has thrown 54 interceptions.

“Two of the four balls were just overthrown,” Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter said after the game. 

The Bucs offense thrived under backup QB Ryan Fitzpatrick for the first three games of the season when Winston was suspended, but since Winston took over the starting job again (during a particularly rough game for Fitzpatrick against the Bears), the Tampa Bay offense has slowed. This morning, reports said that DeSean Jackson, one of the Bucs’ best offensive weapons, wants out of Tampa Bay—NFL Network’s Ian Rapaport reported Sunday that Bucs receiver DeSean Jackson requested a trade to find a team that can make better use of this talents. Jackson hasn’t clicked with Winston the way he did with Fitzpatrick at the start the season. 

Koetter’s job is on the line this season after missing the playoffs in his first two seasons as the Bucs’ head coach, and the decision to bench Winston was likely made with that reality in mind. Koetter can’t risk tying his fate as the Tampa Bay coach to a quarterback as inconsistent as Winston.

Tampa Bay still has nine games to play in this season, which is plenty of time for Fitzpatrick to top Winston’s four-interception game, and it wouldn’t be all that surprising if he did. Fitzpatrick has two career four-interception games, a five-interception game and a six-interception game. Koetter said after the game that he was not ready to determine his starting quarterback moving forward. The Bucs may still come back to Winston at some point this season, but Sunday’s game felt like a shift in the way in Winston’s long-term standing in Tampa Bay. Winston’s bad decisions on and off the field have reached a breaking point. He is not the Bucs answer at quarterback. Fitzpatrick isn’t that long-term solution either, but right now, he gives the Bucs’ offense an energy that Winston does not and a better chance to win.

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