TAMPA, Fla. — It was no surprise that the Jets’ Josh McCown and the Buccaneers’ Ryan Fitzpatrick started on Sunday against former teams, because both much-traveled veteran quarterbacks have former teams littering the NFL schedule.
But this occasion was stranger than most, because the Jets are Fitzpatrick’s most recent former team — he played for them in 2015 and ’16 — and this happened to be his first start as a Buccaneer, in place of the injured Jameis Winston.
How did it go? Fitzpatrick won, 15-10, but the particulars were unsightly, as one might expect from two guys who have had their moments in the NFL, but relatively few of them.
At halftime, the score was 3-3, and Fitzpatrick’s 31.2 passer rating was the better of the two. McCown was at 28.6.
McCown padded his stats in garbage time and went 23-for-39 for 262 yards and a touchdown while being sacked six times. Fitzpatrick was 17-for-34 for 187 yards and one TD.
Each threw an interception — on consecutive plays in the second quarter.
Fitzpatrick was in no mood to quibble over his shortcomings, not after stopping the Bucs’ five-game losing streak, but he made just enough plays, connecting six times with DeSean Jackson.
“The New York media knows I love to force the ball to my favorite guys,” Fitzpatrick joked, a reference to his former Jets teammate and friend, Brandon Marshall.
“I didn’t play great by any stretch of the imagination,” he said. “We won the game, and I’m getting too old now to worry about that other stuff.”
Both before and after the game, Fitzpatrick said hello to several Jets, including all three of their quarterbacks.
He joked about Christian Hackenberg’s goatee, saying, “I’ve got to make sure to let him know that I’m not necessarily a fan of it; maybe he should cut if off.” And he called Bryce Petty, a “dear friend” with “so much potential.”
Fitzpatrick also talked to Jets coach Todd Bowles. “There (are) not hard feelings in me not being there, and the way it ended or anything like that,” Fitzpatrick said. “I have respect for him and we still have a good relationship.”
Like McCown, Fitzpatrick is accustomed to playing against former teams. He said he felt on Sunday like he did the first time he faced the Bills after spending four seasons with them.
“Those guys that are still around that I played with, they are not just teammates to me; those are brothers,” he said. “So it was kind of emotional standing on that side, looking across and even just seeing those people that work in that building.
“I had a great two years there in terms of the people I met and the day-to-day interactions. So that made it special to me, to be able to win that game, but even just to see them and compete against them was special, too.”
It was a dispiriting day for McCown, who widely has been praised this season for his play and his leadership. But he said he was not entirely displeased with how he played.
“I thought for the most part I executed what we wanted to do,” he said. “I always look at it and feel I could be better, no doubt. But as far as throwing the ball and locating it and against what they were doing and what they were bringing, it wasn’t bad. But it certainly can be better.”