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DLT’s Doubloons – Bucs At the Crossroads Yet Again

Jameis Winston threw away the Bucs’ opportunity to improve over .500 and left his team looking for answers for today and the future of the franchise. Here we are, yet again, Bucs fans. We’re at the crossroads with another quarterback who just didn’t make the grade. A franchise killing decision that barring a heavy dose of Fitzmagic, will see this franchise blown up once more.

Here are my thoughts after the heartbreaking 37-34 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.

1) There’s no going back to Jameis Winston after this. No way. No how. Winston is done – perhaps for good. Head Coach Dirk Koetter played the role of good little soldier, putting “the franchise” back in, even though he knew in his heart of hearts, Ryan Fitzpatrick was the better quarterback right now. He tried to do what was best for the organization. Find out what they have in Jameis Winston. Now we know. A guy who will get you beat time and time again. It’s no secret why Jameis Winston is 19-29 as a starter. He’s a turnover machine and he’s not getting better, he’s gotten much, much worse. Turnovers will chase you out of the league faster than anything else. If you win games, teams will tolerate maverick play. If you lose, they won’t. They simply can’t. Winston gave the Bucs no shot to win on Sunday and despite four turnovers, the Bucs, under Ryan Fitzpatrick damn near pulled off a miracle.

It’s a devastating blow to the franchise to essentially admit you missed on your number one overall pick. That you’ll likely be in the quarterback market in 2019. Many believed Jameis looked the best he’s ever looked in the pre-season. He was building off a strong finish to the 2017 season. Then he served his three-game suspension for molesting an uber driver and whatever came back was not the quarterback we saw in the pre-season or at the end of last year.

I don’t know if the suspension broke Winston or what. It’s becoming a Freeman-level flame out and few saw that coming from this quarterback. Sure, another off-the-field incident could have deep-sixed his career – but I don’t think anyone really thought that Winston would fold this badly on the field. And that’s the thing. You have the poor play on the field, the sketchy past off-the-field and you wonder, what are the Bucs really doing here?

Well, They’re trying everything they can to not be wrong. But they are wrong. It’s time to admit it and avoid an even more devastating mistake – giving Winston 21 million dollars next year. It’s time to mothball him the same way Washington mothballed RG3, as that contract is only guaranteed for injury.

2) With this decision all but made – and let’s face it – Dirk Koetter has no choice but to go back to Fitz at this point, there’s absolutely no question that backsides are now burning at One Buc Palace. Dirk Koetter and Jason Licht are in MUST WIN NOW mode. A trip to the playoffs may be the only saving grace for these two. Ownership isn’t going to be happy that there’s another quarterback failure in Tampa Bay. Fitz will need to go 7-2 in these final nine games for the Bucs to have a decent shot at the post-season. That’s with a schedule that includes the Carolina Panthers twice, the Saints and a 5-2 Washington Redskins team. It won’t be easy, but Fitzpatrick has been excellent with these weapons and frankly, gives the Bucs a fighting chance in every game. That’s not to say he’s Joe Montana – he’ll throw picks, too. With Fitzpatrick, this offense is a well-oiled machine that keeps churning up points at will instead of the plodding, mistake-prone edsell it was with Winston.

Bottom line – Win and you can overcome the Winston disaster. Lose and you’re done. If I’m Dirk Koetter, if I’m going down, I’m at least going down with the guy I believe in.

3) Of course, with your quarterback giving away interceptions like he’s Oprah, “You have a pick, and YOU have a pick…EVERYBODY GETS A PICK!” it’s kind of hard to fully evaluate the defensive performance on Sunday. At least 14 of Cincinnati’s 37 points were set up by Winston’s interceptions. But it was a really bad first half for the defense, who let Joe Mixon run wild in the first half. Tampa Bay settled down in the second half, surrendering just 3 points (the final 3 points) but when you’ve already given up 27 first-half points, 3 points in the second half isn’t saying much, especially since it was the deciding 3 point of the game after your offense rallied from an 18 point fourth quarter deficit to tie.

Bottom line – the Bucs weren’t abysmal on defense on Sunday, but they weren’t good. They seemed to give up a little bit after watching their quarterback tossing ducks to the Bengals defense. It was tough to watch.

The Bucs went another week on defense without forcing a turnover. They had their hands on several opportunities for interceptions but couldn’t bring them in. Those “almost interceptions” have to become interceptions and fumbles for this team to win.

4) If the Bucs go back to Winston, I think Dirk Koetter will lose this football team and get the Raheem effect.

5) Despite all the suck this defense has displayed on the football field, one player who has been worth every single cent he’s paid is Jason Pierre-Paul. Paul is having perhaps his best season in his NFL career, with a league-leading 8 sacks in 7 games. Barring injury, he should finally end the Bucs double-digit sacker jinx. A good move by Licht, whose needed one after so many mistakes in free agency.

6) Speaking of Jason Licht mistakes, I think Chandler Catanzaro is about done here, as well. Another missed extra point had the Bucs forced to go for two in the waning minutes of the contest in Cincinnati. Yes, it was windy, but Catanzaro has missed an extra point in three straight games. His inconsistency has been downright embarrassing for a Bucs team whose margin for error is razor thin.

7) As bad as Winston has been, his offensive line has done him no favors. Between penalties, sacks and missed blocks, Winston and Fitzpatrick both had to do some heroics to get the football out of danger. While the right side of the line has struggled, Donovan Smith and Ali Marpet had their moments of weakness as well. Now, some of that could be Winston holding onto the football too long, but not all of it. The offensive line needs to be better.

8) Don’t look now, but the Bucs have taken their usual spot at the bottom of the NFC South. Indeed, by virtue of their victory against Tampa Bay a couple weeks ago, Atlanta, who is tied with Tampa Bay at 3-4, moves ahead of the Bucs based on tie-breakers. Just two weeks ago, the Bucs had the chance to put the nail in their division rivals coffin. Instead, the Falcons have passed them by. Now the Bucs have their own crossroads game in Carolina next week. A loss to the Panthers sends the Bucs pretty much out of the race, a win and their back to .500 with 5 of their last 8 at home. To say it’s a must-win game for Tampa Bay is putting it mildly.

DLT’s 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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