Ask Gary: Does Griffin have a chance to play?

by Gary Shelton on September 1, 2018 · 4 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs

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Saturday, 4 a.m.

You wrote a column this week about who should be the Bucs QB in the 4th week. I think the bigger concern is will Ftizpatrick be able to survive the first 3 games? There have been signs in the preseason that his arm strength is not what it used to be and he has had games with 6 interceptions in his past. Under what circumstances other than injury, might the Bucs decide to unwrap Ryan Griffin? Will it take a total meltdown by Fitzpatrick before the Bucs decide to pull the plug on him?
 
Larry Beller
Yes. A meltdown and a half.
You know as well as I do, Larry, that a lot of tumblers are in play with any team's quarterback situation. Sure, it's possible that Griffin takes over by superior play. It's not likely, but it's possible. Coaches are resistant to change, remember. And they value a guy who has been there before.
I've said this before: The one thing that Fitzpatrick has and the main thing that Griffin lacks is experience. I think that would keep the situation status quo if Fitzpatrick has a lousy week. I really do.
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But say Fitzpatrick is horrible against the Saints, and Griffin comes on and plays well. Then say the same thing happens against Philadelphia. Griffin clearly outplays a wobbly Fitzpatrick. That isn't too much of a stretch, is it?
If that happened, would Dirk Koetter consider starting Griffin in week three? Sure, he might. If Fitzpatrick is horrible in the first two games, the Bucs are probably 0-2. Koetter might want to stop the bleeding.
The thing is, two things would have to happen. Fitzpatrick would have be awful. Four-interceptions-or-more awful. And Griffin would have to be superb.
If that happens, why not? But if I had to bet, I'd bet that Fitzpatrick is at least mediocre and, barring injury, Griffin remains a mystery. That happens with third team quarterbacks. Remember Scott Milanovich? The fans were convinced that Tony Dungy had a personal grudge against him, all because Milanovich lit it up in the scrub portion of a preseason game.
The Bucs are hoping that they can do enough little things well so that Fitzpatrick won't beat them. We'll see.

Since the 2000 MLB season, all starting pitchers who have won the Cy Young Award have pitched at least 198 innings. Blake Snell, currently with a 16-5 won-loss record and an incredible 2.05 ERA, has pitched 145 innings season-to-date. He probably will get about 6 more starts and if he averages 6 innings per start, his innings pitched for the season will be 181. Blake will be competing for the Cy Young award against, among others, Justin Verlander, Corey Kluber, and Luis Severino – all on target to pitch more than 200 innings. Do you think that this makes it unlikely that Blake can win the award, assuming that the award goes to a starting pitcher?

Scott Myers

Personally, I think that Snell is fighting an uphill battle anyway. He's going against people who have been around the voting for years. When you think of Corey Kluber, or Justin Verlander, or Chris Sale, the average fan thinks of them as Cy Young Award winners.

Snell, on the other hand, snuck up on the league this year. Most of the talk about Rays pitching, frankly, has been about their openers. In the meantime, Snell has had a terrific season.

Look, there is nothing wrong with finishing fifth when people talk about the year's best pitcher.

ESPN's Cy Young predictor currently has him fifth, and third among starting pitchers (they have relievers Blake Trienen, Edwin Diaz and Craig Kimbrell ahead of him, too).

I know this: The good writers, the ones I admire, will look at all of it. Strikeouts. ERA. Batting average against. WAR. WHip. Innings. But of the guys they list, only Kluber has pitched more innings. (Luis Severino and Verlander have pitched more, but they're behind him in the Cy Young predictor. Sale has just one more inning than Snell.

Snell won five games last year, six the year before that. It's a one-year award, but I still think some writers will want to see Snell do it again.

Which Buc player will be the biggest surprise this season.....good and bad?
Jim Willson
That's an interesting question. I think the biggest surprise from a positive note will be Vinny Curry. He had only three sacks last year (nine the last three years), but he led the Eagles in pressures. I think if a guy is putting consistent pressure on the passer, his sacks will come. I like what I've seen of Carlton Davis. I think O.J. Howard, the second-year tight end, could have a breakout season. I think Peyton Barber is underrated.
Negatively? It would be easy to pile on Ronald Jones now, wouldn't it? But I'm going to go with an old standby. Vernon Hargreaves, the corner, plays too often as if his job is to tackle the receiver after the receiver catches the ball. He doesn't make enough plays for my taste. You can pick an offensive lineman, any one of them, to throw into the discussion.

 

It's the best time of year again, second only to playoff season.  I ha ave seen many predictions of the NFC south and none of them have the Bucs winning, or with a winning record.  What is your prediction?  From what I saw anything over 3 wins for the Bucs makes you an optimist.

Richard Kinning

I'm happy to be called an optimist. I've been accused of pessimism far too often. I used to say that a pessimist was a guy who not only saw the glass as half-empty, but the rim is chipped, there is something floating in the water and would it kill someone to throw in an ice cube?

We play the "what number are you at" game all the time in the press box. I've heard a lot of nines, to be honest.

Me? I'm at seven, and yes, according to many national experts that's optimistic. The Sporting News has them winning one game.

To me, that's silly. The Bucs won five games last year, and they were within a touchdown in nine others. They won nine games two years ago. Yes, the schedule is tough, especially the first month, but I think this team is good enough to surprise some people. I don't expect them to go to the playoffs, or even to have a winning record. But for whatever it counts, I'm at seven.

No, I don't want to bet.

Ronald Jones is last in average rushing yards on the Bucs. Some guy called Dare Ogunbowale has higher yards per carry. Are you hearing anything about him that’s worrisome? Perhaps a bad work ethic? Is he effective in practice? Most rookie running backs are bad at pass protection rather than at running. This is unusual.

Carlos Ubinas

This week, Bucs' coach Dirk Koetter went out of his way to praise Jones' effort. He said that's top notch. I'm like you; I'd like to see some evidence that he gets it. But it is preseason, and he has been running behind the second-team line.

Certainly, I've lowered my expectations of what we can expect from Jones as a rookie. But I haven't given up on him having a big game here or there.

Remember how Jon Gruden handled Cadillac Williams in his first preseason? He didn't run him at all. Not once. And when the season started, Williams was a star for four games. His shoes are still in the Hall of Fame.

So, let's be honest. We don't know what plays are being called for Jones. We do know that his measurables say that he's a fast back. Eventually, he'll flash some of that.

What's the latest on Vita Vea's and Donovan Smith’s injuries?

Nick Houllis

It's a mystery wrapped in an enigma inside of an x-ray, Nick. The Bucs simply won't say, and their refusal has led some to wonder if Vea is hurt worse than they let on. The Bucs say it's a calf injury, and that he's running in full pads. Still it looks like he'll be worked into the rotation slowly. It's a shame, because a healthy Vea helps Gerald McCoy immensely.

The news on Smith is better. Last week, the team expected him to be out 2-4 weeks. I'd be surprised if he doesn't tough it out against the Saints.

Now, that's a mixed bag. I'm amazed -- and amused -- by the different views of Smith. There are some national analysts who say he's on the verge of losing his job. His coaches, however, say that Smith is close to greatness.

Me? I think he's one of those guys in the pretty good club. Not great, but not as bad as advertised.

Obviously, the Bucs could use both players. You don't draft a 12th overall if he isn't going to start. And Smith has been a starter since he arrived. If I had to guess, I'd say they get Smith back for the Saints but Vea misses the game. Make sense?

I saw DeSean Jackson return a punt against Detroit. Maybe with the depth at receiver this year, Koetter will have him on returnable punts, and Adam Humphries on fair catch situations. Either way, I think they’ll need a special teams TD to win any of the first three games. Even Koetter is the underdog against the opposing coaches in the first three games. Those guys are stars. Am I too pessimistic?
 
Carlos  Ubinas
According to Koetter, Jackson wants to return some punts, and he'll try to every now and then. But older players usually don't play much on special teams.
I think Humphries is better than a fair-catch guy. I think he has some ability.
I would never suggest that anyone is too pessimistic, or too optimistic. This team has earned fans on both sides. They still have some flaws. They have more good players than they had last year. That explains why there are so many differing opinions on the Bucs. I saw the Sporting News picked them to go 1-15. Others have written they could be a surprise team.
In other words, there are arguments to be made that this team will be surprisingly good or disappointingly bad.
Me? I'm sticking with seven wins. But what do I know?
As  far as coaches, there is a bit of pressure on Mike Tomlin in Pittsburgh. Before he rallied last year, New Orleans was growing weary of Payton. And no one was sure about Doug Pederson until he won the Super Bowl. Except for Bill Belichick, there arent' a lot of stars as head coaches.
What do you consider to be the most informative stat in each of the major sports?
Jim Willson
Oh, that's easy. Won-loss percentage. It's a bottom line business. Everything else is just numbers.
What? You want specific stats?
In football, I'm a big fan of the fourth-quarter comeback statistic. For instance, John Elway was never a great quarterback according to the ratings. But he could bring a team back. Detractors say, yeah, well he could have been better in the first three quarters and he wouldn't have had to come back. But the NFL is a fourth-quarter league. It's built for someone to finish strong and win.
I'm a big believer that a great stat is one that the great players excel at. Your leader at comebacks? Peyton Manning.  He's followed by Tom Brady, Johnny Unitas (tie), Dan Marino, Elway, Ben Roethlisberger, Fran Tarkenton, Vinny Testaverde (three-way tie), Drew Brees and Brett Favre. Testaverde is there because of longevity, but everyone else will wind up in the Hall of Fame.
For receivers, I like their first downs per catch. I like average gains, and I like touchdowns.
Sacks are flawed, but I pay attention. Call it a weakness.
In baseball, I'm a big RBI guy. Granted, some of that is how many teammates are on base. But Barry Bonds ruined the home run for me (and McGwire and Sosa). I still like batting average, but it's a sliding scale with power.
As far as pitchers, I like batting average against. I like ERA. I like innings pitched.
This is going to sound dumb, but I like goals in hockey. Some will tell you that assists are as important, but I've never bought it. The best pass in the world doesn't change the scoreboard unless someone knocks it in the net. If I had my way, I'd give a goal-scorer two points and an assist guy one.
In basketball, I love the rebounders more than the point scorers.
In tennis, I keep up with aces.
In golf, I like greens in regulation.
In cycling, I like the guy with the fewest illegal blood transfusions.
What are yours?
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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Larry September 2, 2018 at 9:10 am

It will be interesting for sure. If Fitzpatrick plays well then there is no issue but how likely is that? He’s done well at times but is he good enough to win any of these first 3 games? There is no prize for coming close.

But I think we both agree that Koetter isn’t going to take a chance on an untested QB unless he absolutely has to. And that may be his undoing.

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Gary Shelton September 2, 2018 at 9:12 am

It may be. He’s got to bet his job on someone, though. I think he trusts Fitz a little more.

The thing is, no one is expecting a sweep. If Fitz can win one, he’s done okay. If he wins two, he’s a miracle worker.

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Larry September 1, 2018 at 5:00 am

It’s kind of a Catch 22 that the one thing holding Griffin back is his lack of experience but how in the world will he ever get experience if the coach never puts him in the game? You have a better feel for what Koetter is thinking than anyone so I’m sure you are right that short of a total meltdown or injury we won’t see Griffin at all and that’s a shame. Nobody knows if he is the most talented QB on the team or just another guy who looks good against 3rd stringers in preseason.

Call me a pessimist but I don’t see Fitzpatrick getting it done this year. Age is catching up with him and these are really good teams he’s going up against. The only hope is the running game will bail him out and the defense will be better. The new rules to protect the QB will help him. He’s fearless and likes to run out of the pocket a lot and in the old days that would be a recipe for disaster.

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Gary Shelton September 1, 2018 at 1:57 pm

It IS a Catch-22. But players aren’t assured an equal shot. That doesn’t exist. High-resume players are always going to get a longer shot. The only way that a third-team gets a shot at a starer’s position is to blow the doors off at practice, every darned day, and force coaches to turn away from their multi-million dollar investments. That’s not fair. But it’s the NFL.

Like a lot of quarterbacks, Fitzpatrick has made his errors while playing on average teams or worse. He’s still there. I don’t think he’s one of those backups that you can see starting elsewhere. On the other hand, I don’t know that Griffin is, either.

Most coaches think that getting experience is a problem for the next coach. I don’t think Griffin has clearly outplayed Fitzpatrick, except in the Titans game, but that’s an eye-of-the-beholder team. I don’t blame you for your skepticism. Fitz has earned that. But he played well last year, and Griffin has never been a live game. I’ll be honest; I wouldn’t want to trust my job to either player.

So which guy should start in Week One. It’s Fitzpatrick, who won two of three games last year. There is no history with Griffin. In Week Two, I’d react more quickly than an NFL coach. If Fitz is bad against the Saints (yeah, he deserves to start), then I’d change in a hurry. I don’t think Koetter will do that.

It’s the old Scott Milanovich argument. Some fans loved Milanovich because of his preseason play against scrubs. But coaches who evaluate every practice didn’t think he was special enough to make a change. Players come into the league with perceptions, and it’s hard to change the minds of coaches unless you absolutely blow the doors off the position in practices.

We can both be called pessimists by optimists. I’m used to that. But like you, I speak my thoughts and am willing to be proven wrong.

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