It’s time for PewterReport.com’s 2-Point Conversion post-game column, which features two statements, two questions and two predictions based on the latest Bucs game. Tampa Bay lost its third game in a row when Detroit won it late in the fourth quarter, 24-21, to fall to 4-9 on the season. The Bucs were officially eliminated from the playoffs on Sunday and can finish no better than 7-9, but only if they win their final three games against Atlanta, Carolina and New Orleans.
TWO BIG STATEMENTS
STATEMENT 1: Winston Needs To Reduce Turnovers In 2018 – Or Else
I could write about just how awful the Ed Hoculi officiating crew was in blowing several calls on Sunday, but it makes my head hurt thinking about it.
I could also write about Ian Rapoport’s pre-game report on NFL Network citing a rift between Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter and quarterback Jameis Winston, but I have nothing to had on this right now other than the fact that during post-game press conferences Koetter said his relationship with Winston has been “consistent” over the last three years, and that Winston called the report “false.”
So instead, I’ll write about Winston’s unfortunate penchant for turnovers – he now has 53 in 42 games – and how 2018 needs to be the year they substantially decrease or the Bucs will have a very difficult decision to make regarding the former first overall pick in 2015. Despite the constant preaching from Koetter about protecting the ball, Winston has been a turnover machine and contributed three of the five turnovers in Sunday’s loss.
2017: 8 INTs, 4 lost fumbles – 10 games
2016: 18 INTs, 6 lost fumbles – 16 games
2015: 15 INTs, 2 lost fumbles – 16 games
Winston completed 26-of-38 passes for 285 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions, in addition to losing a fumble. Every turnover has its own story.
Bucs QB Jameis Winston – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR
While Winston said it was a great play by Lions cornerback Darius Slay on the first interception, it looked like DeSean Jackson was slow to react to the pass and didn’t come back to the ball.
On the second interception, Winston and Koetter both agreed that O.J. Howard was held on the play-action pass and that’s what prevented the rookie tight end from getting open and catching the pass that Quentin Diggs wound up picking off.
Regarding Winston’s fumble, he said that sometimes those plays happen and that he “doesn’t have eyes in the back of his head.”
No matter the reason or the excuse for each interception or fumble, all 53 of those turnovers still show up on Winston’s stat sheet. They’re a problem, and as talented as Winston is, if he doesn’t reduce them next year in his fourth season, he may be long for Tampa Bay. Winston, who is 17-25 as a starter, will likely have the team pick up his fifth-year option for 2019 next May, but he’ll probably have a new head coach as it doesn’t look good for Koetter seeing a third year at the helm in Tampa Bay.
Whoever takes over next year will essentially have one year to get Winston’s game turned around with more wins and fewer turnovers, otherwise Winston will be the latest Bucs quarterback to be drafted by the team to not see a second contract, joining the likes of Vinny Testaverde, Trent Dilfer, Josh Freeman and others. Winston has only had Koetter and quarterbacks coach Mike Bajakian working with him since he’s entered the NFL in 2015. Perhaps a new head coach, offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach is necessary to get the best out of Winston the same way that Sean McVay is getting the best out of Jared Goff in Los Angeles.
If Winston can’t reduce the turnovers and increase the touchdowns and wins in 2018, the next head coach will likely want his own quarterback or risk suffering the same fate that Koetter will face at the end of 2017.
STATEMENT 2: Bucs Used A 2-4-5 Scheme On Defense
Early in the second quarter, the Bucs went to a 2-4-5 scheme on defense when defensive tackle Gerald McCoy went out with injuries to his right shoulder and biceps. The Bucs used Sealver Siliga and Will Clarke on run downs at the defensive tackle spots lined up in the B gaps, and inserted linebackers Kendell Beckwith and Davante Bond as stand up defensive ends at the line of scrimmage on third downs and obvious passing situations. The Bucs also had linebackers Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander in the game as nickel linebackers.
Part of the reason why the Bucs turned to this formation was due to McCoy’s injury, but this was also part of the game plan in order to get more speed on the field to help Tampa Bay’s struggling pass rush, which was last in the league coming into Sunday’s game with only 17 sacks. Without McCoy and backup three-technique defensive tackle Clinton McDonald, who was inactive with a back injury, defensive coordinator Mike Smith was essentially forced to use the 2-4-5 scheme, perhaps even more than he originally intended.
Yet what was the end result? No sacks.
Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford dropped back to pass 44 times and was only hit three times. Nice try with the new scheme, Smitty, but no cigar.
TWO PROBING QUESTIONS
QUESTION 1: Is McCoy’s Season Over?
One of the few players playing good, consistent football McCoy was in tears on the sidelines after injuring his biceps early in the second quarter. McCoy, who battled two biceps tears during the 2010 and ’11, has played through numerous injuries to his knees and hands over the years, and a muscle injury like a biceps injury might be tough for him to come back from with three games remaining.
If McCoy’s biceps is torn, then his season will certainly be over. He’s scheduled for an MRI tomorrow.
Bucs DT Gerald McCoy – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
“I just know my arm hurts,” McCoy said. “I don’t know. I’ve got to get an MRI tomorrow to see what’s going on.”
After the game, McCoy said he injured his arm on the first play of the game and tried to play through it but didn’t feel like he could help the team anymore. There was speculation in the locker room that he indeed suffered a torn biceps, and McCoy said the injury was “semi-serious.”
McCoy, who has been to five straight Pro Bowls dating back to 2012, is leading the Bucs in sacks this season with five sacks along with 40 tackles. McCoy is second among defensive tackles in sacks and is currently one of the top vote-getters for the Pro Bowl.
QUESTION 2: Is Koetter And His Staff Getting Fired At The End Of The Year?
Yes, I believe so.
TWO BOLD PREDICTIONS
PREDICTION 1: Welcome To Awkwardville
The Buccaneers’ next game is on Monday Night Football against Atlanta. Former Tampa Bay head coach Jon Gruden will be at Raymond James Stadium – not only to call the game for ESPN’s Monday Night Football broadcast, but also to be inducted into the Bucs Ring of Honor. Gruden, who led Tampa Bay to its first and only Super Bowl victory in 2002, was fired in 2008, a year in which he became the Bucs’ all-time winningest head coach with 57 victories.
Before the game, Gruden and Monday Night Football play-by-play announcer Sean McDonough will have a very interesting production meeting with Koetter at the team hotel the day before the game as is usual protocol. I can only imagine what types of questions Gruden might ask. It could be very awkward.
“Dirk, the last time I saw you guys back in the preseason you were supposed to go to the playoffs. What the hell happened, man?”
Not only will Gruden be making a speech on the field at halftime, he’ll likely receive a warm reception from the Ray-Jay crowd and possible chants of “Gruden! Gruden!” could erupt as Koetter and the players return to the field from halftime. That could be another awkward moment.
To Koetter’s credit, he was classy when asked about Gruden’s return to Ray-Jay next Monday night and the “Grumors” out there about him possibly replacing Koetter next year as head coach.
PREDICTION 2: Martin Won’t Return To The Bucs In 2018
No. Doug Martin’s fate in Tampa Bay was sealed on Sunday when he lost a fumble in the second quarter and was benched in favor of Peyton Barber, who led the team for a second straight week with 58 yards on 12 carries (4.8 avg.), while Martin ran for just 26 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries (2.6 avg.).
Bucs RB Doug Martin – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR
Martin now has just 402 yards and three touchdowns on 129 carries (3.1 avg.) and is in danger of not hitting 500 yards rushing for the fourth time in the last five years. Martin, who turns 29 next year, is scheduled to make $6.75 million in 2018. Whether or not Koetter returns to coach the Bucs or if there is another person at the helm, Martin is not going to be back with the team. He’s just not worth the money and he’s not that good of a running back anymore.
The media can see that Barber is running the ball better than Martin right now, and the fans can see it, too. If Koetter can’t see that and ends up starting Martin again next week instead of Barber, he deserves to be fired before the end of the season.