Ryan Fitzpatrick knew that at this point of his career he could only either become the best quarterback of the league or go back to the sideline for the rest of the season.
Fitzmagic's historical run of three straight games throwing for over 400 yards came to an end against the Chicago Bears on Sunday, where the 35-year-veteran was benched at halftime for Jameis Winston after completing just nine of 18 passes while throwing an interception and taking two sacks.
On Monday, head coach Dirk Koetter named Winston the starting QB, sending Fitzpatrick back to the bench. Something that the former Jets player was expecting, but he's not happy with it.
“What I said to my dad after how week one went, and week two and week three was basically… ‘I’m either gonna win the NFL MVP this year or I’ll be back at the bench at some point.’ That’s just the reality of the situation,” Fitzpatrick told ESPN’s Jenna Laine. “I wish I could still be out there but that’s the way that it goes, and I’ll accept my role.”
Fitzpatrick led Tampa Bay to a 2-0 start, throwing for 819 yards, eight touchdowns and just one interception in those games. In week three, even when he threw three interceptions in a loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, he still threw for 411 yards and scored three touchdowns, becoming the first quarterback in league history to throw for over 400 yards in three straight games.
“It’s not necessarily something I wanted to hear, just in terms of getting that taste back, that feeling of being out there and having fun, enjoying myself, kind of creating some momentum at the beginning of the season with the guys," Fitzpatrick said. "But Jameis is back and he’s the guy. He’s the face of the franchise. He’s gonna do a great job. But it’s not like it’s a happy day for me. I enjoy being out there."
Coach Koetter said that giving back the starting job to Winston in week six against the Atlanta Falcons—after the team’s bye week—has nothing to do with Fitzpatrick’s breakdown in the 48-10 loss to the Bears. This was his initial plan since he found out that Winston was being suspended by the NFL after being accused for an incident with an Uber driver.
"In no way is this on Fitz that we lost like we did yesterday. Fitz didn't play as well as he had been playing, but this was a 100 percent team [loss]. We brought Fitz here two years ago to be a mentor for Jameis and to be a guy that could fill in if Jameis was out for injury”
A historical start of the season was not enough for Fitzpatrick to become the starting quarterback of the Buccaneers in the decline of his career. And we all knew this was coming, even when the veteran had had extraordinary games, Tampa Bay knows that Winston might be the franchise QB that they had been looking for and the only way this wasn't going to happen was if Fitzpatrick would’ve continued throwing for over 400 yards per game.