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DLT’s Doubloons: Bucs vs. Lions

In Tampa Bay, it’s an bi-annual celebration. The witch hunt begins and this time it has Dirk Koetter ready to be burned at the stake. Is this why the Bucs are moving into year eleven of rebuilding for the future?

Pieces of Eight

1) Before we get into Dirk and the coaching staff – let’s talk about the quarterback. There’s no one Tampa Bay fans like to hate more than their quarterback and it’s happening once again in Jameis Winston. Look, folks. Jameis Winston is not a terrible quarterback. He’s not Tom Brady, either. I know you don’t want hear that he’s only 23 years old or that it’s going to take time for his game to mature.

I know it’s tough to understand that even grizzled veterans like Drew Brees and Matt Ryan throw idiotic interceptions, as they did last Thursday night. It’s hard to figure out that young quarterbacks often take a step back before moving forward. It happened to Favre, Manning and Andrew Luck. It happened to Blake Bortles. It’s happening with Marcus Mariota, whose played a lot worse than Winston this season.

Fans look at Jared Goff and Carson Wentz and wonder why hasn’t Winston risen to these heights? There’s obviously something wrong with him. Why isn’t he Dak Prescott or Deshaun Watson? Why is he no longer mentioned among the young up-and-coming QBs in the league?

It’s simple. Those QBs, and even Mariota, are winning (or were winning in Houston’s case before Watson went down and their defense was decimated by injuries).  The teams put the pieces around the quarterback to win games.

In Dallas, it’s the offensive line and the running game. Without Zeke Elliot and with the injuries to the o-line, Dak has been rather ordinary this season hasn’t he?

In Tennessee, the run the ball 60% of the time and play solid defense.

In Philadelphia, Wentz has a solid o-line, the second best rushing attack in the NFL and one of the best defenses in the league.

In Los Angeles, Goff has Todd Gurley in the backfield and one of the most innovative young coaches in the league calling plays.

Winston has a suspect offensive line, a predictable coach, no running game and a horrible defense. Yet he’s the problem?

Yes, his turnovers kill his team. They most certainly do. When the rest of your team sucks and you feel the only way you can win is to try an make some heroic play – turnovers are going to continue to happen.

So no, replacing Winston is the LAST thing the Bucs need to do. What they need to do is put an offensive line in front of him that doesn’t have him running for his life. Add a running back who can average more than 2.9 yds a carry and maybe get an occasional 100 yd rushing day (hey, they may actually have that guy on the roster if they’d only give him the football). Give him a defense that doesn’t surrender 30 points a game on the road and allow opponents to convert 50% of their 3rd down tries.

Give him that, the turnovers will come down. Then, if he still struggles to lead the Bucs to victories, it’s time to talk about the quarterback.

I’ve seen enough bad quarterback play in my time covering the Bucs and being a Buccaneer fan to know it when I see it. Jameis Winston is a good quarterback. He just needs some help. Even Trent Dilfer can win if you put a good team around him. Certainly, Winston can as well.

2) Now to Dirk. It was leaked to NFL Network’s Ian Rappaport that Jameis and Dirk’s relationship was “not in a good place”. Of course the coach and player denied this as fake news, but the info came from somewhere. Rappaport isn’t the kind of reporter to make stuff up just to make headlines. It couldn’t have come at a worse time for Koetter. Now he has to answer questions from the Glazers as to the validity of the report.

When you’re 4-9 and staring at your three division opponents who are all fighting for playoff spots and the possibility of ending the season with a six-game losing streak is a distinct possibility, you can’t afford a rift with your quarterback. The Bucs have too much invested into Winston to cut bait (barring an off-the-field issue that makes retaining him impossible). So Dirk, if you go to the Glazers and say it’s him or me, I have bad news for you.

3) I’m as frustrated as all of you regarding the current state of the Bucs. I haven’t changed my stance on Koetter. I think it’s foolish for the Buccaneers to rinse, lather and repeat this treadmill of suck every two years. This is how the creamsicle Buccaneers went almost two decades without a playoff berth. Now, I’m definitely on record as saying the Buccaneers need changes in the coaching staff. Mike Smith can’t return at defensive coordinator. The offensive and defensive line coaches need to be looked at.  Dirk needs to strongly consider giving up the play calling duties to Todd Monken and manage the entire football team, not just the offense.

But it’s likely not going to happen that way. The Glazers are as frustrated as we are. They were promised a winning season and possibly a playoff run, not another lost year with the stands empty or filled with opposing team’s fans. With this rift nonsense and the offense regressing, I think it’s highly likely there will be sweeping changes again. I don’t like it. You shouldn’t like it. It is what it is.

Let’s hope this time they don’t go for the “name” and actually hire a president of football operations like a Bill Polian to fix this mess and get the Bucs back to respectability.

4) Sunday’s game was a microcosm of the season, huh? The Lions, a very average football team, were there to be beaten but the Bucs couldn’t stop beating themselves. Five turnovers, three by the quarterback, you can’t win that way. You just can’t.

5) Since Jameis has given up the pep talk duties to Lavonte David, he’s had two solid starts in his games which included two first-quarter touchdowns, something that was a mystery to the offense earlier in this season. It’s obvious that when Jameis is “Eating W’s”, he gets too hyped for the game and it makes him erratic, starting slowly. The past two games he’s taken a page from Fitzpatrick and let others get fired up while he entered the game calm and collected.

I think that’s an important growth moment for Jameis and I hope it continues.

6) Are we finally done seeing Doug Martin in the Bucs backfield? All Peyton Barber did when finally given opportunities is rush for 58 yds and 4.8 yds a carry while Martin averaged his typical 2.6 yds and fumbled away a scoring opportunity. I don’t want to see carries on Martin anymore. Let Barber lead the way and show us if he can be a number one. Let Sims and Rodgers spell him. Let Doug Martin ride the pine until they can cut him in the off-season.

7) One has to wonder if it was someone from Jason Licht’s camp who leaked the report to Rappaport about the discord between Winston and Koetter. Licht, who is without a contract for next season, is now in self-preservation mode. The motive is simple, he can say he brought in the players to win now but the coach blew it.

Looking strictly at the numbers, Licht’s Bucs are 21-40 during his tenure. Add another 3 losses at the end of the year and this team will have lost 10 or more games in three of his four seasons as General Manager.  That’s not exactly the resume that gets you the second contract.

Licht has drafted fairly well, but while he filled the team’s skill positions, he failed in finding the right components for the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. It all starts up front and Licht’s free agents and draft picks for the lines (other than Ali Marpet) have not panned out.

It’s a travesty that this season has been Gerald McCoy and a bunch of “Just Guys” – again. McCoy has now gone 8  years and two general managers without a complimentary piece on the defensive line. Now approaching 30 and likely lost again due to a torn biceps injury, the Bucs will see what life is like without McCoy.

At times, Tampa Bay went with 2 defensive linemen rather than try to field four competent defensive linemen without McCoy. That’s a failure for Jason Licht.

If the Glazers don’t do a clean sweep and opt to give Licht another crack at the apple, I wouldn’t do more than one season. If you can’t build a winner in 5 seasons in today’s NFL, you’re doing it wrong.

8) The gauntlet is coming. Many fans will say lose these games for the draft pick as if losing games at the end of the season has helped the Browns or the Bills become the powerhouse they are today (oh wait, they still suck).  No, ending the losing culture means every time you take the field, you try to win the game. Correction: you expect to win the game. There’s already some players who have checked out or are in self-preservation mode. It’s showing up on film. Desean Jackson shortening a route. Mike Evans, where are you at? Other guys like Lavonte David, Brent Grimes and yes, your Quarterback Jameis Winston, are still doing everything in their power to win the game. That’s what you want.

The last few years, the Bucs playoff hopes were ruined by their division rivals. How about we return the favor this year?

DLT’s Bucs vs. Lions Emotional Tweet of the Week

 

J.C. De La Torre

J.C. De La Torre

Want to give JC a piece of your mind? E-mail him at JC@whatthebuc.net JC De La Torre is formerly a columnist/blogger for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers blog site BucsNation.com where in 2016, he was nominated as best sportswriter in Tampa Bay by Creative Loafing. Previously, he served as a featured columnist for Bleacher Report on Tampa Bay sports, an editor and featured columnist for SB Nation Tampa Bay covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Gators, wrote for NFL.com’s Blog Blitz and contributed to Pewter Report, one of the top magazines on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. JC is also a filmmaker, comic writer and rabid Whovian.

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