Dirk, Jameis say they’re fine; not the rest of us

by Gary Shelton on December 11, 2017 · 2 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs, Tampa Bay Lightning

Jameis Winston throws the ball as Davis rushes./STEVEN MUNCIE

Jameis Winston throws the ball as Davis rushes./STEVEN MUNCIE

Monday, 3 a.m.

Dirk likes Jameis, okay. He thinks he's a keen. He's a  handsome guy, fun at parties, a great dancer. He has all the cool gadgets.

Dirk Koetter watched his team lose again./STEVEN MUNCIE

Dirk Koetter watched his team lose again./STEVEN MUNCIE

Jameis thinks Dirk is neat-o, all right? He thinks he's wise beyond his record. He tells a good joke. And you ought to see him juggle.

Oh, yeah. Here at 4-9, the coach and the quarterback are getting along just swell, no matter what you read. They're ready to carve their initials in a tree and give each other promise rings. They're like Fred and Barney, best friends forever. Any day now, they're going to start a fraternity down here in the NFC South cellar.

Believe it or not.

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Leonard Wester celebrates after catching a touchdown./STEVEN MUNCIE

Leonard Wester celebrates after catching a touchdown./STEVEN MUNCIE

Sure, there was a report on NFL.com on Sunday that has made the rounds. Said report suggests that all is not dreamy in the land of Bucs, that Winston is peeved at Koetter and vice versa. The report, by Ian Rapaport, suggests that Winston didn't think he got enough support from Koetter during his recent shoulder injury. And furthermore, the report said, Winston thinks the offense is too predictable.

Brent Grimes intercepts a pass./STEVEN MUNCIE

Brent Grimes intercepts a pass./STEVEN MUNCIE

“That's false,” Winston said. “Me and Coach Koetter have a great relationship first and foremost. We have the same goal when we go out and that's to win. It doesn't matter what anyone else can possibly say. Obviously, a lot of stuff can come out when we're 4-9. Coach Koetter coaches his tail off. He definitely supports me. No matter what anyone else has to say. That's water up under the bridge. That's shocking.”

Said Koetter: “They told me about it after the game. That's definitely news to me. I think James and I have had an extremely consistent relationship for the last three years. I don't think anything is different about it, but that's just my opinion. It concerns me that we aren't winning enough games. I know the truth about our relationship.”

Beckwith makes a tackle for the Bucs./STEVEN MUNCIE

Beckwith makes a tackle for the Bucs./STEVEN MUNCIE

Is there anything more Koetter could have done during Winston's injury?

“I could have whipped out my medicine bag and done some quick shoulder surgery and fixed him up," Koetter said. "But I wasn't able to do that.”

And so it went, the two swearing they were closer than Damon and Pythias, Ben and Jerry or Sears and Roebuck. Why, never has there been a discouraging word. Well, with the possible exception of “red zone.”

There are a few questions here, of course. First is if you believe the report. Winston was emphatic, repeatedly, that he has no problem with Koetter and that he has no idea where such a report could have come from. He was believable. He didn't make an attempt at a dodge. “Coaches coach and players play,” he said.

Second is that if you do believe in smoke-and-therefore-fire, who might have started such idle gossip? And why? An agent? A coaching rival? A front office employee who might want to lay the blame on Koetter instead of himself? Certainly, it is not someone with either the best interests of Koetter or Winston at heart.

Lavonte David with a tackle./STEVEN MUNCIE

Lavonte David with a tackle./STEVEN MUNCIE

Then there is this. The Bucs are 4-9. Wouldn't you expect there to be a bit of friction? If the Bucs are happy at 4-9, after all, we have a bigger problem than the record. Losing causes friction; by now, the Bucs' house should be on fire.

Koetter? He has bigger problems than Winston. For the third straight game, his defense folded up at the end and the opponent sliced right through them for the win. This time, the Lions went 49 yards for a winning field goal by Matt Prater (46 yards) for the winning points in a 24-21 game. It did not look difficult.

Winston? He has bigger problems than Koetter. He had three more turnovers

Mike Evans catches the ball./STEVEN MUNCIE

Mike Evans catches the ball./STEVEN MUNCIE

(he now has 53 in 42 games). He brought the Bucs back from two touchdowns down in the fourth quarter, but five turnovers by the team were too many to overcome. Even with Larry Wester (All Quiet on the Wester Front) open in the end zone, the Bucs tumbled. If Winston really does have a bone to pick with his head coach, it will get out. And it will not paint a pretty picture of a third-year pro who has enough problems.

In all, Winston hit 26 of 38 for 285 yards Sunday, a good enough day if not for the turnovers. But the turnovers existed. They've existed far too often.

One thing that seems to have been settled was the running back position. Doug Martin started, but he carried 10 times for only 26 yards in the first half. Peyton Barber came on, and he finished with 58 yards on 12 carries.

Wide receiver may have a different look late in the year, too. Rookie Chris Godwin led the team with five catches for 68 yards, and fellow rookie O.J.

O.J. Howard celebrates after scoring a touchdown./STEVEN MUNCIE

O.J. Howard celebrates after scoring a touchdown./STEVEN MUNCIE

Howard had four for 54. Mike Evans caught just two passes for 25 yards.

Also of note: Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy injured his bicep and had to leave the game. That leaves four guys named Ned on the front. Who's fault is it? Ned's.

“I just know my arm hurts,” McCoy said. “I've got to get an MRI to see what's going on. You're in the middle of play, you go to the next one. It actually happened on the first play of the game.”

Once again, it is clear that the season will not end in the post-season for McCoy.

Doug Martin powers through Spence to score./STEVEN MUNCIE

Doug Martin powers through Spence to score./STEVEN MUNCIE

“I'm never going to stop (fighting),” he said. “I love this team. I love this city. We aren't just going to keep fighting. I don't care if we never make the post-season, I'm going to fight until we get there. It's just who I am.”

Ah, but how would you describe who the Bucs are? They gave up a late touchdown to Atlanata when they were still within a score. They gave up a game-winning drive to Green Bay in overtime. And they gave up the game-winning drive (field goal) on Sunday. It's pretty clear that the Bucs have no idea how to shut the door.

“I think our biggest issue is that we are having a hard time getting pressure with a four-man rush,” Koetter said. “Detroit is a good passing team, (Matt) Stafford gets the ball out of his hand. But 44 pass attempts and you don''t ever get him on the ground? That's going to stress your coverage and they do a job with their receivers.”

For the game, Stafford hit 36 of 44 passes for 381 yards.

In other words, the performance was far too ragged for a team to sing around the campfire. Why shouldn't they have some animosity. The fans do.

"I've been with Coach Koetter since I go into this league, and he has not wrongmed me since I stepped foot through those doors," Winston said. "Some unfortunate things happened. That's life. That's football. As long as we are winning, no one is sitting here asking me questions about me and my head coach. No one."

The Bucs have three games left, all against foes from the NFC South. Next Monday night (Dec. 18), they are at home against Atlanta.

Ryan Smith attempts to stop a catch by Jones./STEVEN MUNCIE

Ryan Smith attempts to stop a catch by Jones./STEVEN MUNCIE

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Bill MYERS December 11, 2017 at 9:08 am

This game was a real “Fumble Bowl” for both sides. And it was most likely the last real chance the Bucs had for a win. Now they have 3 strong division rivals all smelling post season play coming up and this team looks like a speed bump to them. National TV coverage MNF with Atlanta could be embarrassing if these guys can’t pull together a good defense with or with out McCoy!

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Gary Shelton December 11, 2017 at 3:56 pm

Well said.

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