The Buccaneers have a backup quarterback problem
Ryan Fitzpatrick is terrible, and Ryan Griffin will be out for a while.
Ryan Fitzpatrick is terrible. We knew he wasn’t good, ever, but he’d had a few years where he played okay football, or at least managed to get okay results. Based on that, I thought he’d be a decent backup quarterback. But his performance agains the Cincinnati Bengals was shockingly terrible—and not just in the stats.
Those statistics were bad enough: Fitzpatrick completed 6 of 13 passes for 45 yards, a sack and an interception. But his play was worse: his passes came out slow, late, and inaccurately. The one redeeming factor was the ability to run a little, but that’s not something you want to build an offense around.
Fitzpatrick has looked consistently terrible in training camp, too, which is why a third-year undrafted free agent in Ryan Griffin was genuinely competing with him, to the point of alternating drives with Fitzpatrick in the first preseason game. That is: until Griffin went down with a shoulder injury.
That injury will keep Griffin out for ‘weeks’, Koetter said, and that may very well be an understatement. Shoulder injuries tend to be really tough to recover from quickly, and it’s Griffin’s throwing shoulder, too.
That means the Bucs are stuckwith Fitzpatrick as their backup quarterback now, with undrafted rookie Sefo Liufau as the main competition—but he doesn’t really stand much of a chance. That should scare Bucs fans, and the front office: the team doesn’t have much of a chance to win any games that Fitzpatrick is starting.
The Bucs aren’t ready to say they’re just going to give up games that Winston can’t play in—they didn’t offer Mike Glennon an expensive long-term extension for no reason. Which means that they really should be investing a little more in their backup quarterback situation.
Unfortunately for them, it’s a little late to do anything about this problem. The only quarterback on the market who could realistically be an upgrade over Fitzpatrick is Colin Kaepernick. He’s getting frozen out of the NFL because of his protests, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s part of why the Bucs haven’t contacted him, too.
There have been some suggestions that he may not fit the Bucs’ traditional dropback offense, given the schemes he played in in San Francisco, but I don’t really buy that: Kaepernicks’ a big, strong-armed, reasonably accurate quarterback—exactly the type of player Koetter has often played with. His biggest issue is taking far too many sacks, and the accompanying fumbles, but he actually throws far fewer interceptions than the average quarterback.
Honestly, at this point, not signing Kaepernick is pretty indefensible, at least from an on-field perspective. There is no way he’s worse than Fitzpatrick. And right now, if anything were to happen to Jameis Winston for even a short amount of time, the Bucs would see their season go down the drain almost immediately.
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