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DLT’s Doubloons – Season’s Gifts and Lumps of Coal

For those of the Christian faith, Christmas Eve and Christmas day are a time for renewed faith. We celebrate the birth of our Saviour, and using the pagan holiday traditions of Saturnalia, we give gifts to one another as part of the celebration.

Buccaneers fans were hoping their team would give them a nice Christmas gift by upsetting the Cowboys and renewing our faith in this regime and this quarterback. Unfortunately, we got the lump of coal.

Pieces of Eight

1 – Let’s start with the gifts the Bucs have given us in 2018. For two weeks, the Bucs gave us a taste of what it was like to be relevant. Expected to start the season 0-3, facing a daunting gauntlet of division champions to begin 2018 and their starting quarterback suspended, the Bucs stunned the NFL (and maybe themselves) with two explosive victories over the Saints (who would win 10 straight and run away with the NFC South) and Eagles (the defending Super Bowl Champions who, well, haven’t lived up to that). The Bucs were the talk of the NFL and after a tough, but close loss to the Steelers, Bucs fans were feeling good about the season. They were wearing “Fitzmagic” beards. We were all thrilled to see where this season was headed. It was nice, wasn’t it?

2- Mike Evans is the gift that just keeps on giving. The amazing wide receiver, who should be in the Pro Bowl as he is one of the best in the league, continues to basically re-write the Tampa Bay franchise record book. Touchdowns. Check. Receptions. Check. Career Receiving Yards? Check. Single season receiving yards? That will be taken care of on Sunday (barring a catastrophic collapse or the appearance of Jeff Galooly).

3- Vita Vea looked like a lump of coal early in the season, but is blossoming into a gift. It takes defensive linemen, especially tackles, a little time to figure out what they can and can’t do in the NFL – even Warren Sapp only had 3 sacks in his rookie season. Vea is becoming a game wrecker and has shown up for several games in a row. If Vea can develop a counter-move in the off-season and not just use his impressive power to dominate overmatched linemen, he’ll be tough for any offense to handle and maybe FSU Bucs fan can stop whining about Derwin James.

4 – Jameis Winston completed over 70% of his 48 pass attempts, threw for 336 yards and a touchdown against the 4th best defense in the NFL. What fans will remember, is him getting blindsided by Randy Gregory, fumbling and leading to a scoop and score for Dallas. Such is the life for Winston, who is getting his share of the blame for the demise of the Bucs season. Make no mistake, it’s been a terrible season for #3. A lump of coal kind of season. He was suspended. Benched for poor play for the first time in his life. He seems to have lost confidence, something you’d never expect from someone as positive and sure as Winston. Many Bucs fans want to move on. For who? Joe Flacco? As Thomas Bassinger points out, this would be an idiotic move. Nick Foles? Sorry, Nick doesn’t have the Eagles defense backing him up here. Teddy Bridgewater? A guy who has never thrown for more than 14 TDs in a season in his NFL career?

Like it or not, Winston will be your quarterback in 2019 because there’s nobody better than he is that will come available in the off-season. Plus, this is a weak quarterback draft class.

Winston deserves an opportunity to work in a different offense and perhaps even a defense that doesn’t surrender 28 points a game. The last (and only) time he had that, they won five straight games and challenged for a playoff spot.

5 – There are things to like on the coaching staff. Gifts like Todd Monken’s playcalling, the improvement of the defense under Mark Duffner, the rise of the Bucs defensive line under Brentson Buckner (not as quickly as we all would’ve hoped, but it’s getting better) and the plucky performance of an undermanned secondary, handicapped by a cornerback who is obviously mailing it in for his last few games of his career. But then there’s Dirk Koetter not calling timeout on a crucial 4th-and-1 when his quarterback is struggling to locate the play clock. There’s the play of George Warhop’s offensive line, which has gotten progressively worse as the season has gone along. Think of this, the Bucs are one of the few teams in the league where they’ve lost only one man game to injury along the offensive line – and they are worse than they were when the season started. Meanwhile, J.R. Sweezy, who was terrible here (when he wasn’t hurt), is a Pro Bowl alternate in Seattle. Add to that Winston’s stagnation under Koetter and you can see why the Bucs are looking for a change.

6- I understand why Desean Jackson is frustrated. He feels the Bucs are playing with a quarterback not good enough to get him the football, and he’s right. Winston can’t hit Jackson. Lately, he rarely even tries. It’s either Jackson or Winston, and Desean knows the Bucs aren’t going to pick an aging speed receiver in his thirties over a 25-year-old QB whose shown enough in this league to give another shot under a different coaching staff. The writing is on the wall, hence, Jackson sold his house in Tampa and is ready to move on. Good luck to you, Desean. Hopefully you find what you’re looking for.

7 – Now that John Harbaugh is off the market, the Bucs really need to keep an eye on the goings on in Pittsburgh. The Steelers aren’t a franchise that makes rash decisions, so it would be a surprise if they fired head coach Mike Tomlin. If it happens, the Glazers have to be ready to pounce. Give him a Gruden deal. Yep. Because Tomlin is worth it. When your worst season as a head coach is 8-8, you deserve the Gruden deal. I don’t think it will happen, Pittsburgh will be crazy if they do it and it’s not their m.o. But be ready, Ed and Joel. Have that contract ready. Or, even better, give the Steelers an option to move on by offering a trade for Tomlin. No, not a franchise crushing 2 first round picks (as again, they did for Gruden), but something to allow the Steelers to move on, keep their integrity and get the Bucs a coach that is an unquestioned winner in this league.

8 – The big question is where the Bucs go with GM Jason Licht. I think we all know Koetter is finished, but will the Bucs do a clean sweep? I think it depends on the coach and whether they get a “football czar” to help them. If a Christmas miracle occurs and they get a guy like Tomlin, he may want his own GM. No, it’s not the ideal way to do business, most organizations, you pick the GM and the GM picks the coach, but here the Owners like to make that decision. Yes, they’ve chosen poorly. Maybe they shouldn’t be doing it. It’s probably why the last four choices at head coach have failed miserably. But it’s their team and they can do what they want with it.

DLT’s Emotional Game 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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