As you would expect a majority of the questions submitted for the Mailbag were about the quarterback issues of Jameis Winston and what the team does moving forward following Tampa Bay’s 37-34 defeat in Cincinnati.
Question: Is the Jameis Winston situation bad enough for the Bucs to look to draft his replacement? Or use Ryan Griffin/Fitzpatrick for next year?
Answer: It is nearly impossible to get into the heads of Dirk Koetter, Jason Licht or even the Glazers at this point. They are fresh off a game in which the supposed franchise quarterback, fourth-year starter Jameis Winton, threw four interceptions and nearly single-handedly cost the Bucs the game. And there are just too many unknowns right now, including how the rest of the season plays out and who the coach and general manager are next year if the Glazers decide to replace Koetter and Licht.
Even if Koetter and Licht stay, drafting a quarterback would seem like a strong possibility. Maybe not a first-rounder though. The top quarterbacks are drafted in the Top 10 usually, at this point the Bucs may not be close enough to that position to draft one. If the plan is to play Fitzpatrick the rest of the season, and this team flirts with .500 then they will be in picking in the 15-20 range in the first round.
But I think we are still far away from team making up their mind what to do Winston. There is no deadline or incentive to make a decision any time soon. While it appears a majority of the fans have given up on Winston, I don’t believe the team feels that way. Not 100 percent anyway. Are they questioning him leading this team in the future? You bet, but it is way too premature to think the organization is ready to walk away.
Question: Now that Jameis isn’t the “guy,” does Jason Licht get fired since he hand-picked Winston?
Answer: More depends on how the season plays out. As Scott Reynolds pointed out, that Ryan Fitzpatrick is also technically Jason Licht’s guy. He signed him as a free agent two years ago and brought him back this past offseason. If Fitzpatrick somehow can save this season, and that is assuming Winston is benched all year, then everyone comes back next season with Fitzpatrick at the helm. Except … Fitzpatrick is an unrestricted free agent, and if he does rally this team to the playoffs, there will be more than the Bucs who want him under center next season.
Your question is actually a case made to play Winston though. If Dirk Koetter and Licht feel that they are gone after this year because of the decision to draft Jameis Winston, then they are going to roll him out the rest of the year. It is essentially their “get out of jail free card.” They would be gambling that somehow the turnovers stop and Winston all of sudden becomes that player you expected him to be in his fourth season. But again, if they think that their own personal fortunes are tied to Winston and giving up on him now is going to cost them their job, then you better believe Winston starts the rest of the season.
Question: Well, do you honestly think the Bucs pick up Jameis “turnover king” Winston’s option and are there any QBs in draft Bucs could take?
Answer: As previously mentioned, with nine games left in the season, it is way too early to tell. As I mentioned above their are a couple of Catch-22 scenarios that come into play here. If all things were even, and the front office and staff knew they would be back next season regardless of how 2018 ends up, then maybe you could say the team moves on from Winston. But with so many jobs and careers tied to this season they could be forced to play him. Then what if he turns it around, goes .500 down the stretch and the turnovers stop?
The Bucs have to draft someone for the long-term if Winston isn’t the guy. Looking at the last 15 Super Bowl winners, all but Drew Brees and Peyton Manning with Denver were drafted and developed by the team who walked away with the Lombardi Trophy. The last true free agent quarterback (other than Manning) to win a Super Bowl was Brad Johnson with the Bucs back in 2002. Finding guys on the street and expecting to win championships with them is as rare as a pink unicorn who speaks fluent French and can juggle chainsaws.
Question: If Fitz goes down do you give Ryan Griffin the ball?
Answer: If the Bucs do plan on walking away from Jameis Winston, then yes, he would essentially be demoted to third-string, as an injury would leave you on the hook for $20 million in 2019. Ryan Griffin would then back up Ryan Fitzpatrick. The Bucs have picked up Winston’s fifth-year option, but it is only guaranteed due to an injury. A lot will be known about Winston’s future with the team once the staff makes a decision on who starts next week and the depth chart moving forward. If I had to guess, it will be Fitzpatrick under center and Winston as the No. 2 in Carolina this Sunday.