Ask Gary: Should the Bucs have deactivated Winston?

by Gary Shelton on November 3, 2018 · 4 comments

in general

Fitzpatrick has moved the Bucs' downfield./JEFFREY S. KING

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Saturday, 4 a.m.

Ryan Fitzpatrick was lights out, and threw for over 400 yards in each of the three games when Jameis Winston was on suspension and inactive. Then Winston returns in game 4 as the backup, Fitzpatrick implodes and is benched at halftime.

Do you think there is any correlation of Fitzpatrick's poor performance in that game and Winston being available to replace him at a moment's notice? If so, wouldn't it be better to make Winston inactive for Sunday's game? Conventional wisdom would say Winston should be the backup but his presence may be the very reason that the starter will be looking over his shoulder and not play well. Isn't it time the Bucs started thinking outside the box a little?

Larry Beller
Larry, I like it outside the box. We can gather round the campfire and tell old stories about the Bucs.

There are a lot of things to blame Jameis Winston for this year, admittedly. Heck, I think he's giving advice to Donald Trump and guest-appearing on the Kardashian tv show. Heck, I blame him for the red tide, the third Matrix movie and the ending to Lost.

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But, no, I can't blame Ryan Fitzpatrick's poor performance on him. Fitzpatrick has a lot of poor performances in his history, and Winston has an alibi for most of them. He wasn't there.

Seriously, the reason I think Fitzpatrick was responsible for his own poor play is this...I think too much of Fitzpatrick to think otherwise. He's a smart guy, Harvard-educated, and he knew the deal when he came here. This is Winston's team. This isn't a deal, under normal circumstances, where the job is anyone's. Only Winston's abysmal play changed that.
You don't declare your No. 1 draft pick inactive. As bad as Winston has been, that's several steps from now. Winston needed to be active, if for no other reason than to get work in that second half. And, no, it hasn't done him any good.
But no quarterback in the NFL can blame a bad performance on the guy backing him up. You can blame Koetter if you want, because he's the head coach. You can blame Monken, because he called the plays.  You can blame the defense, that showed early they were never going to stop Mitch Trubisky. But Fitzpatrick was responsible for his errors, the same as Winston was responsible for his.
To tell the truth, though, blaming Winston in this case is like blaming the bugler for Custer's massacre.

Is John Gruden's 10-year/$100 million contract with the Raiders fully guaranteed?

Scott Myers

It's hard to nail down, because NFL teams do not release the details of their coaches' contracts. We do know that Gruden is between stinking rich and filthy rich. Frankly, he's the highest-paid 1-7 coach in the history of football.

There is a website "isgrudegoneyet?.com, where the organizers have a running clock on Gruden's time left. It's at nine years, 10 weeks, five days, 19 hours, 27 minutes and 44 seconds (as I typed this). That's a long time to fret if you're a Raiders' fan.

I've said it before. I like Gruden, and I thought his first year in Tampa Bay was the finest one-year coaching job I'd ever seen. He went from not knowing how to pronounce Mike Alstott's name in his opening press conference to winning it all. And, no, it wasn't all because of Tony Dungy. It helped, but that offense got a great burst of energy from Gruden.

Later, I soured on Gruden. He wasn't a builder, and as the talent eroded, he could neither coach nor obtain enough to replace it.  Even with that 12-4 first season, his final record here was 57-55. He could coach, but he never got the right general manager.

Perhaps that will change in Oakland. Gruden now has three No. 1 draft picks for next year, and he's got time, and Las Vegas is sure to be a free agent magnet. But Gruden is off to a nightmare of a start. How do you lose to an undrafted free agent (Nick Mullens) on your way to nowhere?

For the record, Gruden has said that he's not making $100 million. Granted, he didn't deny that in his Raiders press conference, and he didn't take issue with the dozens of reports that said he was. Gruden merely says that he isn't guaranteed to live 10 years as a way of dismissing the discussion. He's good at that.

I thought it was funny that Gruden also suggested that Tom Cruise is overpaid. Well, I'm not crazy of Cruise, either, but if you're building an equivalent argument, Cruise's box office is far better than 1-7.

I did read where Gruden's contract is said to be heavily backloaded to take advantage of Nevada's tax laws.

Look, the $100 million was freely floated, perhaps by Gruden's representatives. It came from somewhere. No way I would have given him anywhere in the neighborhood of $100 million after watching him go 57-55 with Tampa Bay.

It would have been interesting to see him return to Tampa. But it's going to be interesting to see him with the Raiders, too. No one asked me, but I think he might be the worst guy to lead the Raiders since Paul Revere.

Is Ryan Fitzpatrick a quarterback on a hot streak or has he figured out the NFL at his age? Will this success last?

Paul Walker

I think it's a  bit of both, to be honest. He's obviously very hot, about as good as you can hope for from a team's second quarterback. Can you imagine what a mess this season would be if he hadn't guided the Bucs to wins over the Saints and Eagles and nearly made comebacks against Pittsburgh and Cincinnati?

But you're right. There isn't a lot in Fitzpatrick's past to suggest this will last for a long time. He's had a six interception day, a five interception day, a four-interception day and 10 three-interception days. He's had a lot of days that have gone wrong.

That said, the Bucs had no choice here. Jameis Winston gives gifts like he's Santa.

It's true that Fitzpatrick could have a bad day Sunday. But, at this point, he's a better bet for the Bucs. He's calmer, and he's more likely to give what he has. He's never had this many weapons around him, and he can take advantage of all of them. Agree?

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Larry Beller November 4, 2018 at 9:17 am

Agreed. A verbal commitment from Koetter is all Fitzpatrick should need. But without that the team will be in QB hell. This is a test of Koetter’s leadership skills as much as anything.

As much at the QB controversy is front and center on everyone’s mind, it probably will be the bad defense that dooms the Bucs.

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Gary Shelton November 4, 2018 at 11:19 am

Good point. I’m stunned at just how bad that secondary is with a high priced free agent and three No. 2 draft picks. I’ve been disappointed with the pass coverage of the linebackers.

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Larry Beller November 3, 2018 at 6:47 am

Very funny Gary. I didn’t expect you to agree with me but I think there is more to this than you think. RF plays great for 3 weeks then the very week Winston returns he is off. That’s on Fitzpatrick not Winston but what should the coach do to fix it? I think Koetter needs to make some type of commitment to Fitzpatrick so he won’t be thinking every pass could be his last as any mistake is going to result in him being benched. Maybe they have had a conversation about that or maybe Fitzpatrick just tunes out all the noise about Winston and plays great again. If I was the coach I’d address it somehow. He needs to in order to keep his job.

Once the Bucs are eliminated from the playoffs put Winston back in there and he can make all the bad decisions and throw all the picks he wants. It won’t matter at that point. But as long as the games mean something I”m telling Fitzpatrick you’re my guy.

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Gary Shelton November 4, 2018 at 9:03 am

Larry, you might be right. And I would certainly tell both quarterbacks that the new order, for now, is Fitzpatrick and then Winston. I’d tell Fitzpatrick that if he has one bad game, it won’t change things. (Two might). I’d let both players know how solid I am in my resolve. I’d tell the team.

But you can’t throw Winston away. Not now. Not yet.

Every backup quarterback in the NFL is facing the same questions that Fitzpatrick is facing. It isn’t a fair league. There are practices to consider. There is talent. There is investment. I understand that, if it were put to a vote, the masses would put Winston in a boat with Josh Freeman, Trent Dilfer and Vinny Testaverde and set it off to sea. But a coach has to try to see this from every angle.

Winston was horrible last week. But he’s had some good games, too.

For now, Fitzpatrick clearly has beaten out Winston. But it’s an ever-changing league. If Fitzpatrick grabs his elbow in pain in the first quarter today, as much as you don’t want to do it, you can’t trust what is left of the season to a third-teamer who has never played in Griffin.

To repeat, I’d make it plain that Winston is the second-team quarterback. Unless there is an injury, he’s going to stay that way for the time being. But I don’t think you have to demonstrate it any clearer than vocally.

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