So it’s hardly surprising that Jackson thinks Fitzpatrick should remain the Bucs' starter even after incumbent Jameis Winston returns from his three-game NFL suspension. The 31-year-old wideout even used an age-appropriate video game reference to make his case.
“He’s playing on fire right now,” Jackson said Monday of Fitzpatrick on the NFL Network. “With the way the team is rallying behind him and just playing lights-out football, you have to kind of honor it. You can’t take the hot man out. You got the hot fire right now. It’s like NBA Jam. We used to play NBA Jam — whoever got that hot-fire shot, you got to keep shooting, man. It’s not my decision, but I’m sure [Coach Dirk Koetter and offensive coordinator Todd Monken] and the guys that make those calls, they’ll make sure they stay on fire until that fire is out. We’re going to stay on fire. That’s our job, to stay on fire, and that’s what we’re going to do.”
Jackson has been a prime beneficiary of Fitzpatrick’s hot-fire shots this season, catching all nine balls that have been thrown at him for an NFL-high 275 yards and three touchdowns. He’s averaging a somewhat absurd 30.6 yards per reception, which is just two yards shy of the NFL record set by Don Currivan of the long-forgotten Boston Yanks in 1947 (the Cowboys' Bob Hayes holds the post-merger record of 26.1 yards per reception, set in 1970). And while some regression should be expected from Jackson, Fitzpatrick and the Bucs, benching the Harvard graduate when Winston returns would be unwise, especially when you consider that his first game back — Sept. 30 against the Bears — will come on a short week: Tampa Bay plays Pittsburgh in a Monday night game to end Week 3.
Koetter isn’t saying much, even if the answer is obvious.
"I won’t be the one getting into that,'' he said Monday, per the Tampa Bay Times. “We’ll worry about that when the time comes. Right now, right after I get out of here, we’re going to start working on Pittsburgh. That’s all that matters right now. It can all change just like that.''
By no means are the Bucs giving up on Winston, the No. 1 pick of the 2015 NFL draft and a Heisman Trophy winner at Florida State, after just two good games from Fitzpatrick. In April, Tampa Bay picked up the 2019 option on Winston’s rookie contract. But Koetter seems to realize which way the wind is blowing right now.
"His numbers are off the charts,'' Koetter told the Times. "So how would you expect everybody to respond? Of course, our team is playing well. They’re doing something not many thought they could. We have a good locker room of guys believing each other right now. So any player that’s playing well and backing it up with his play.''
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