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Pewter Report’s Scott Reynolds answers your questions from the @PewterReport Twitter account each week in the Bucs Monday Mailbag Submit your question to the Bucs Monday Mailbag each week via Twitter using the hashtag #PRMailbag. Here are the questions we chose to answer for this week’s edition.
QUESTION: What the hell was Antonio Brown doing? I have been a defender, but I’m done. Can they place him in some sort of reserve list until after the season then cut him?
ANSWER: Here is what we know regarding former Bucs wide receiver Antonio Brown. The volatile Brown was dealing with a sprained ankle and was asked to go back in the game twice in the third quarter, but refused. At that point, head coach Bruce Arians benched Brown, who didn’t take the news well. Brown was consoled by wide receiver Mike Evans, but removed his shoulder pads and gloves, took off his shirt, flashed the peace sign to the Jets crowd, ran down the tunnel and left the stadium.
Former Bucs WR Antonio Brown – FOX
At that moment, Brown’s Bucs career was over. But Brown wasn’t cut after the game. At the time of this writing, the team is contemplating whether to cut Brown or suspend him. Suspending him would keep him away from other NFC playoff contenders. Tampa Bay did a similar thing with former Bucs receiver Keyshawn Johnson in 2003 when he had a heated blow-up with head coach Jon Gruden.
The reality is that Brown’s NFL career is likely over. While he can still play at age 33, Brown’s erratic behavior has run him out of Pittsburgh, Oakland, New England and now Tampa Bay. If Brown couldn’t stick around a players’ coach like Arians and play for quarterback Tom Brady – what team would want him? What situation exists where Brown would find success? And Brown has dealt with foot and ankle injuries this year. Is he healthy enough to be worth the trouble elsewhere? Probably not.
At the end of the day, Brown was a hired gun in Tampa Bay. He was signed to catch passes and win games. Not be a choir boy because that type of behavior is not a part of his character. It’s one thing to have his COVID vaccination card shenanigans surface and get suspended by the NFL for three games. It’s another thing to defy Arians, who has stood by Brown, and blow his last chance in the NFL.
QUESTION: Obviously the ticking time bomb went off and I think every agrees Antonio Brown needed to be cut. Do you think if Bruce Arians was out this week with COVID that the same results would have happened with Harold Goodwin as the fill-in coach?
ANSWER: Wow. That’s a great hypothetical question, and one we’ll never know the answer to. Bruce Arians cleared the COVID protocol and was able to re-join the team for Sunday’s game at New York. Would Harold Goodwin have benched Antonio Brown like Arians did when Brown refused to go back into the game? I’m not sure. Maybe that would have led to Byron Leftwich dealing with Brown instead and might have resulted in a different outcome.
But as you said in your question. Brown was a ticking time bomb – one that didn’t go off last year in the Bucs’ Super Bowl LV championship. But Brown went off on Sunday in the third quarter, and he obviously overreacted to being benched. That overreaction outburst cost him his roster spot in Tampa Bay and probably the continuation of his NFL career. The bigger question is will Brown’s departure cost the Bucs a chance at winning another Super Bowl?
QUESTION: How long would it take Larry Fitzgerald to be ready to play?
ANSWER: While it seems like a natural fit – signing former Arizona receiver Larry Fitzgerald to help replace Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown – it doesn’t seem like it’s in the cards for the Bucs. While Fitzgerald knows Bruce Arians’ offense and thrived in the slot receiver role that Godwin occupied before his injury, the future Hall of Famer is 38 and retired from the league this offseason.
Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Fitzgerald’s play significantly diminished last year, which was his 17th season in the NFL. He caught 54 passes for 409 yards and one touchdown in 2020. That’s a paltry 7.6 average, which is a sign that he can no longer run or separate. No surprise given the fact that he was 37.
To expect Fitzgerald to come to Tampa Bay and step in and make more of an impact than Cyril Grayson, Jr., Breshad Perriman and Tyler Johnson without any training camp would probably result in an immediate injury (see Richard Sherman). Fitzgerald would probably take a few weeks to get back in football shape if he didn’t hurt himself, and it’s doubtful his addition would help the Bucs.
Tampa Bay needs Mike Evans’ hamstring to get healthy. Evans and Rob Gronkowski must step up and play like stars. Then Tom Brady needs guys like Grayson, Perriman and Johnson to continue to make plays in Godwin and Brown’s absence.
QUESTION: Tom Brady won this game, but how much of this win was because the Bucs believed they’d win and the Jets believed they’d lose? It reminded me of Brady in the Super Bowl against Atlanta where you just knew Falcons, even with the lead, didn’t believe in themselves.
ANSWER: The Bucs’ belief in Tom Brady was forged last year when he led them to a pair of 17-point comeback wins over the Chargers at home and the Falcons on the road. Throw in the fact that Brady helped the Bucs win Super Bowl LV in his first season in Tampa Bay, and there is plenty of belief in the G.O.A.T.
Sunday’s 28-24 win over New York was just another instance where the Bucs’ belief in Brady kept them in the game until the very end. The Jets didn’t trail the Bucs for 59 minutes and 45 seconds, but it wasn’t enough to pull out the win. New York is 4-12 for a reason.
The Jets don’t know how to win yet. New York isn’t mature enough to close out a game like Sunday’s. The Bucs were like that for a decade under the likes of Raheem Morris, Greg Schiano, Lovie Smith and Dirk Koetter before Bruce Arians and Brady arrived.
QUESTION: It seems that the lack of production from Devin White is hurting the team this year. With Lavonte David out and Kevin Minter being slower, White really needs to pick it up. Is there some reason why he has declined so much this year?
ANSWER: Devin White might have played his worst game of the season at New York. White struggled mightily to get off blocks and was a bystander for much of the game while the Jets rushed for 150 yards, two touchdowns and averaged 5.8 yards per carry. He finished with just two tackles, White’s lowest since Week 2 of his rookie season. And that was in Carolina after he injured his knee in the first quarter.
Bucs LBs Devin White and Lavonte David – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
The Bucs missed Lavonte David in the worst way against the Jets. While White only had a pair of tackles, Kevin Minter notched five tackles, but missed several others. And Minter was also a liability in coverage, as he struggled to keep up with the Jets backs that he was covering out of the backfield.
Not sure what has attributed to White’s step backward this year, and he has taken a step backward. Maybe it’s the hip injury he suffered at Indianapolis that is still impacting him. But White had four tackles at Carolina last week and just two at New York. His play is definitely heading in the wrong direction.
Tampa Bay desperately needs David to return from his foot injury for the first round of the playoffs. Getting David and outside linebacker Shaq Barrett back would prevent teams from running for 150 yards on the Bucs defense.