The Tampa Bay Buccaneers seem to have a clear option to fill in for Jameis Winston, but is Ryan Griffin a dark horse?
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers fell short of expectations last year, with a 5-11 record to bring up the rear in the NFC South. Now a looming three-game suspension for quarterback Jameis Winston casts a early shadow over this coming season, as head coach Dirk Koetter coaches for his job.
In Winston’s absence, Ryan Fitzpatrick stands as the obvious fill-in starting option for the Buccaneers. He was 2-1 as the starter during Winston’s absence due to a shoulder injury last year, and was pretty productive in four games of prominent action. With 119 starts in his career, Fitzpatrick is at minimum a capable, experienced backup and that’s why he was brought back by Tampa Bay on a one-year deal in March.
The No. 3 quarterback for the Buccaneers right now is Ryan Griffin. He impressed the coaching staff last summer, before a shoulder injury sidelined him until November. It seemed possible for him to usurp Fitzpatrick on the depth chart before the injury, and now the door may be open for a second chance.
In response to a question on Twitter, Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times suggested Griffin has a “major opportunity” to surpass Fitzpatrick and start the first three games in Winston’s place. Familiarity with the offense would give the former undrafted free agent and edge on any external option, but that’s the best thing on Griffin’s resume as a starting candidate for the Buccaneers.
But Griffin has never thrown a regular season NFL pass. He spent his first couple years after going undrafted in 2013 out of Tulane with the New Orleans Saints, with Sean Payton and Drew Brees to absorb knowledge from.
With the Saints, Eagles and Steelers on the slate for Week 1-Week 3, the Buccaneers are staring at an 0-3 start regardless of who is under center. So with that in mind a trial run with Griffin as the fill-in starter is probably harmless. But things could get particularly ugly in those first three games if Griffin legitimately beats out Fitzpatrick for the right to start in Winston’s place.