Cover 3 is a weekly feature column written by’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat writer Trevor Sikkema published every Tuesday. The column, as its name suggests, comes in three phases: a statistical observation, an in-depth film breakdown, and a “this or that” segment where the writer asks the reader to chose between two options.

Sikkema’s Stat(s) of the Week

Should I stay or should I go now?
Should I stay or should I go now?
If I go, there will be trouble
And if I stay it will be double
So come on and let me know

The world of football, much like the world around us, is often not black and white; a matter of definitive this or that. There are rarely any situations worth spending a decent amount of thought over that have an obvious answer. Rather, the situations worth the trouble often have layers and levels – context, if you will.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are in one of those situation with the man who leads them onto the field, in the film rooms, in the meetings, on draft night, and just about anywhere else you can expect.

Just a little over one year ago, Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter was widely thought of to be the man to bring a franchise so barren with offense in its history into the realm of relevancy and competition that followers of it are not used to – because they’ve trained themselves not to be time and time again.

“The Bucs always have been and always will be known for defense.” Right?

However, as I write this column just two weeks away from the 2017 season finale and the narrative on Koetter has almost done a 180 degree turn.


Bucs QB Jameis Winston and head coach Dirk Koetter - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs QB Jameis Winston and head coach Dirk Koetter – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

As prefaced in the initial paragraph, there isn’t an easy answer to that question, the question of “How?” There has been plenty of blame to go around throughout the year; some deserving and others among a series of unfortunate events. Quarterback Jameis Winston getting hurt in the early part of the season gave many an excuse to throw blame out the window.

On the other side, key players such as linebackers Kwon Alexander and Lavonte David, cornerbacks Brent Grimes and Vernon Hargreaves, defensive ends Noah Spence and Robert Ayers all clocking in their time on the sidelines with injuries throw a battered and beaten narrative that doesn’t help Koetter.

But then there’s the other side of things. There were questions of physicality – or lack thereof – in training camp. Koetter talked all preseason long that the goal was just to get out of training camp as healthy as you can. A nice philosophy, in theory, but one that hinted at holes in its thought process as the Buccaneers were overpowered and ill-prepared when the good team came knocking in the early weeks.

There was the “we have to be consistent” speech that continued to resound from the podium when Koetter took center stage loss after loss after loss. There have been obvious oversights in the play calling and play structuring of an offense that was penned to have all the weapons in the world and one of the best units in football before the regular season began – yet averages less points per game this year (20.4 ppg) than a year ago (22.1 ppg).

Though it is dangerous to dive into the “what should and should not have happened” for a reality that has already passed, there is some evidence to the fact that, barring reserve safety Keith Tandy having an unprecedented end of 2016 with four key interceptions, Koetter’s record last year would not have been as good as it was. But, even beyond what the margin of wins and losses is inevitably going to be from this season to last, was an offensive regression predictable with Koetter? There’s evidence to say that it was.

*NOTE: A lot of the leg work for the following tables was done by David Harrison of the Locked on Bucs podcast. David is a great dude, a big time Bucs fan and does a lot of great work, not just on the podcast, but with outside thinking and good conversations about the team and the game. If you don’t follow his work already, you should do so!


In the table above we have the Jacksonville Jaguars offensive stats for the duration of Koetter time there.

The first thing you should notice is the year one bump. The Jaguars were the sixth best scoring offense in the NFL in Koetter’s first season, and that was with David Garrard as their quarterback. Under Koetter, Garrard threw for 28 touchdowns and just eight interceptions, a very efficient rate with the new offense.

However, after you notice the high rates from the first year, the next thing you should notice is that those numbers don’t repeat during his five-year tenure in Jacksonville. in fact, they don’t even come close. Though Garrard stayed around the same level in terms of yards throw, the total offense, including the efficiency of the quarterback took a big step drop after that year one shock change to what they were doing before. This started to become a bit of a theme on Koetter’s next stops as well.


In his first season with Matt Ryan in Atlanta, Koetter again thrived. He orchestrated the No. 7 scoring offense in the league, which helped the Falcons achieve a 13-3 record overall.

But, again, just like a regression came in Jacksonville, one also came in Atlanta. Now, fluctuation of being a Top 10 offense isn’t odd. There are plenty of coaches that experience ups and down, but Atlanta was another stop that hinted to the fact that after that initial “new” phase of Koetter as a player caller, he’s never been able to re-gain his first year achievements.

Even though the Falcons did bounce back a bit in scoring and in quarterback play during his third season, the overall output did not as the team was concerned. Being the No. 12 offense does count as holding up his side of the bargain, if you ask me, but it wasn’t enough to be offense that overcame other deficiencies. I would argue that’s a trait that exists in top coaches that can be playoff caliber.


Now comes the interesting part.

There is nothing normal about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers franchise, which means, as you would expect, Koetter’s career road has some twists and turns during his time here.

The Bucs roster was still being built from some bad coaches making bad moves, so Winston’s supporting cast during his first year has to go into the equation. The fact that it was Winston’s rookie year also had to be involved because rookies in the NFL will always have different learning curves.

But, let’s look at the three years as a whole. If we treat Winston’s second year as the first year Koetter would normally use play designs for a veteran quarterback (e.g. Garrard, Ryan), being ranked 18th isn’t too bad. But, in 2017, the Bucs offense has regressed in scoring despite tons of weapons. You can say Winston’s injury would have something to do with that, however, two of the Bucs’ highest scoring games this season, the Cardinals loss (33 points – 26 from the offense) and the Dolphins win (30 points – 23 from the offense), Winston didn’t do the majority of the scoring anyways.

Instead of nitpicking certain statistics on both sides, I’m trying to look at things with a big picture where history may be on Koetter’s side. If you divide up Winston’s stats this season and average them into a 16-game season, his numbers are actually better in the right areas. He didn’t take that “next step,” but he did show progression in efficiency (though the scoring did not). That’s the good, since Koetter does have his hands on the Bucs quarterbacks.

Bucs coach Dirk Koetter and QB Jameis Winston – Photo by Mark LoMoglio/PR
Bucs coach Dirk Koetter and QB Jameis Winston – Photo by Mark LoMoglio/PR

However, even with a little Winston progression, history tells me that trusting Koetter from this point on would be doing so at your own risk. After his initial jolt to a system, he’s either been figured out or has failed to adjust to what he’s done as a coach to stay one step ahead of the game. After all, you can’t run the same stuff just because it works for a year. This is the NFL, either you’re evolving or you’re dying.

Koetter, for most of his stops, hasn’t evolved, regardless of tenure length.

That’s my main gripe with Koetter as a coach. He’s in the position he’s in (a head coach and play caller for an NFL team) for a reason; he’s done some good things over his career. He’s even done them on more than one occasion for more than one team. But what happens after that? These numbers seem to say “not much.” The most important trait for a head coach or even an offensive or defensive coordinator is the ability to stay one step ahead and out-think your opponent. You want to the be one applying the pressure and forcing them to adjust, not the other way around.

Too often this season I’ve seen Koetter and the Bucs be the ones forced to react, not the one that sets the tone. Not only does that put him in a place of early adjustments, but Koetter hasn’t seemed to adjust well when those situations have come up.

Regression has been par for Koetter’s course throughout his career, and though things have fared somewhat more evenly in Tampa Bay – more importantly not too steep of a digression thus far except the Bucs record from 9-7 to a likely 4-12 – keeping him around would involve hoping you’ll see something from him that he hasn’t shown in the last 10 years as a playcaller.

The ability to catch lightning in a bottle for the second time in a single tenure.

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  1. Trev, you managed to sneak a couple of Grudenisms in there. The part about applying pressure to make your opponents react. Where have I heard that before? Gruden, ” you either feel pressure, or apply pressure”. Koetter’s first years are good, then his offence levels off. Gruden, ” you either get better, or you get worse”. Don’t know if you meant to, but you made a case for Chucky! As for Koetter, I think we’ve already seen his best. What troubles me is his predictability, and inability to adjust. When has he ever tried to catch an opponent off guard, like with a fake punt? I think Reed, and Tomlin have done it twice this year to swing momentum. Koetter, I think never. How about the fact we had two blocked punts this year from middle pressure. Teams saw something on film that caught us not once, but twice, inexcusable. So if Koetter is retained, I expect a better record next year, say 8-8, but I think what you see is what you’ll get. Not much better then that.

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  2. Great points as always Trevor. My big issue with this game is this. We played from behind most of the game so we were chasing points and pushing for scores. No clock control/field position battle here. Even if Barber doesn’t fumble and we score a TD there and with Winston playing a near perfect game, the offensive output is only 28 points. For “perfection” to only yield a potential 28 points, that has to be questioned. That level of QB play, given the weapons still available should lead to more points.

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    • I’m not sure what Winston could have done better. You look at his Yards, TD / INT ratio, and completion % and I’m not sure how anyone could blame him at all. The Barber fumble hurt, but we also had 2 Offensive PIs called on Mike Evans which negated 2 big plays (including a TD). This team seriously always seemes to get penalized at the worst moments, which falls on coaching. On defense, we could stop the run so D. Freeman and the ATL offense controled the clock pretty easily.

      During Hard Knocks I remember Winston talking to a group of kids who all wanted to be future QBs. He mentioned that to be a QB you have to be prepared to be blamed for a loss even if you individually had a great game. This is a perfect example.

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      • Ok, given all of the down votes, I’m eager to hear an explanation.

        The team was chasing points.

        There was a missed 50+ yard FG and a fumble inside the 5. So the best possible score I guess was 31, which would’ve been good enough to win. But a coach should be able to put a game plan out that yields more than 21 given the level that his players were executing.

        If they must play better to put up more points, there is a problem.

        If a coach’s scheme requires perfection to be successful, there is a big issue. If Koetter’s scheme requires Winston to be more perfect to win games we need a new OC.

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    • You’re not taking into account to drive killing drops on their side of the field as well. Not only that , but Atlanta ran for over 200 yards to get time of possession. There are a ton of factors that go into how many points you score, like how fast your offense runs, big plays and such. The bucs had a lot of long drives this game in terms of plays, that limits your possessions as well. I don’t think you’re trying to blame Winston in your comment, as that would make zero sense given how he played.

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    • Not sure what all the negativity is about.

      Koetter got everything he should ever ask of any QB, even said as much in his press conference. For his scheme to only yield 21 or 28 if you take away the one turnover is asking way too much of the QB.

      If Koetter’s scheme must have perfect QB play to yield 28 points, there is something very wrong with his scheme.

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  3. I agree completely about this being Winston’s best game and was disappointed that one of your partners initially nit picked it, arguing it was not his best based on QBR. As usual you are spot on.

    The Glazers owe it to themselves, the team and the fans to bring in a more capable head coach. The meter is running, hoping that Koetter can suddenly figure it out and address his game day shortcomings is too great a risk. Every year players get older, injuries strike and you can already see the salary cap pileup coming when Winston is a $100+ million guy. The time to act is now.

    We need to turn responsibility for continuing to develop Winston to someone more likely to maximize the opportunity this collection of skill players (the best in our history by a mile) offers us on offense. And we need a GM who knows how to build a complete team vs acting as if he’s building a fantasy football roster, which is exactly how Licht has approached things. Heck any of us bozos sitting in the cheap seats could do the latter : – ). Fire those (two) cannons

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    • QBR is a joke stat anyway ad is pretty much used only by guys like Skip Bayless in order to win some silly argument. TDs, INTs, Completion %age and Yards is usually good enough by themselves without trying to boil them all down into a single number.

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  4. Some real eye opening statistics on Koetter offense through the years, did not realize his track record was so poor.

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  5. Trev, has anyone ever consider that the reason the offensive points score are down this year is bc the defense can’t get off the field. They rarely get a 3 and out on defense and allow the other teams to go on long drives. They are last in the league on 3rd down on defense whereas they were 1st last year. This limits the number of possessions on offense. It would be good if you compare the offensive possessions per game compared to last year and to the rest of the league.

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    • Sure, there’s probably truth to that element. But, the team as a whole is down. It’s not just the defense. There have been plenty of stalls on the offense just from their own doing, as well as getting the ball into opposing team’s territory and just not coming away with touchdowns.

      There are often many reasons for both failure and success. The defense underperforming certainly doesn’t help anything, especially, like you said, limiting the number of possession you have.

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    • Very good point here especially when you consider that Winston is a rhythm QB. Once he finds it is nearly unstoppable. But when the QB is off of the field and only gets 4-5 drives in the first half, it makes it very difficult.

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  6. Winstons critics are anything but silenced. Winston has always, from day one as a Buc, been entirely inconsistent. A great game gets followed by a horrible game, plus a couple “meh” games .. maybe just a couple great games a season.

    The criticism of Winston has NEVER been that he is incapable of a great game, or that he never performs well. It is that he is all over the map.

    No quarterback performs great every game either. Tom Brady has games that are “meh”, but he virtually never has a terrible game where he is the principal culprit in a loss, as ..ummm, Jameis Winston was just the week before with his three turnover performance in a 3 point loss. Ditto with Drew Brees. Ditto with Aaron Rodgers (at least not when he’s recovering from a broken collar bone). The great quarterbacks that are worthy of top draft picks (even if they weren’t actually picked at the top of the draft) are consistently good, and very frequently great. Jameis is not … at least not yet.

    The critics won’t be silenced until Jameis starts performing consistently good foodball, and frequently great football. One great performance silences nobody.

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  7. 1. I find it interesting that Winstons 2 greatest games this year, and possibly ever, came in losses. ATL and BUF.
    2. Winston certainly had his big boy pants on Monday night. This is the guy Ive wanted since his first year at FSU. Total control. Great velocity. True leader.
    3. I believe we need a change, but it has to be the right one. Whether its Gruden, Harbaugh, McDaniels, etc. There better be a handshake deal in place BEFORE Cutter gets Cut loose. We cannot run the risk of missing out and ending up with another placeholder HC. Have to swing for the fences early and have something lined up. That said, I truly think Gruden would jump at the job if offered. If we end up keeping Cutter, Ill assume we couldn’t secure the coach we wanted, and Im ok with that.
    4. Smith better be on the first train outta town.

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  8. Winston has improved on nearly every metric since he entered the league as a rookie. The only metric 2017 Winston lacks versus rookie Winston is rush yards and rush TD’s.

    But that is a worthwhile sacrifice if it means Winston is more accurate and stands in the pocket longer to make throw downfield.

    That is what progress looks like for a young QB. it also shows that Winston has improved his mental processing if he is relying less on his legs and more on his progressions.

    Get a legit LT with feet and this offense would look really different.

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    • I agree ADW. Everyone has seen how Dak Prescott looks this year with the likes of Chaz Green trying to protect his blindside. Winston has had bad line play since day one. He is a great QB and his critics are clueless. This performance was done with the worst OL in football in front of him.

      Everyone needs to have a bit of patience with our franchise QB

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  9. Studying Dirk Koetter past team’s offence performance including his time as coordinator for Bucs I see nothing that would have indicated he would be a good head coach
    What I do see is if he was same as a head coach as he was as coordinator the team he would be the head coach for would be at bottom of the league just like Bucs are today. It begs me to question why did Bucs hire him, maybe he is doing what they wanted and that is to lose, keep team salary down and collect shared TV revenue and sell a lot of tickets to the cold weather teams that come down here to play Bucs. Denver Broncos salary swelled out of control after Superbowl win so Broncos hired a coach who was defensive coordinator for one of worst teams in defence in the NFL in 2016 Vance Joseph job done now Denver at bottom of league and all the players leaving at the end of the year and salaries down and the dumbass Broncos fans still buying tickets.

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    • Were you wearing your tin foil hat while typing this?

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  10. Debatable on him improving. As a harsh critic of him, I think he played lights out,but he needs to show he can be dependable. I’m not going to say, “that’s what he needs to do every game”, because realistically even Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, etc have rare games with that rating. But where he should be, and where he is currently are very debatable. I for one think he’s behind the eight-ball, so-to-speak. This game showed what he’s capable of, I just hope this is the step in the right direction. I’m not expecting 300 yards and 3 TDs every game, but just sound decesion making and accurate throws, that of which has been below-average to average so far in his career.

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  11. Great cover 3 Trev! IN terms of Koetters offensive rankings throughout his career, it appears that his offense just gets too predictable, gee who woulda thunk it. When fans know what is going to be run, other teams do. I like Coach and hate to see turnover constantly, but can he take this offense to the next level? I don’t think so. Scheming and adapting isn’t his strong suit and it can kill him at times during games.
    As for Jameis’ critics, they’ll never be silenced. They’ll always be there no matter what waiting for his next bad game. We would all love a little more consistency with Jamies , and there are games he certainly kills this team with his mistakes and bad plays, but some just have unreasonable expectations.
    When you look at the games that Jameis has started and finished this year , he has a 66% completion percentage with 17td’s and 7 interceptions while averaging 303 yards and a QBR of 103. Those are legit stats with the NFL’s 30th ranked run game and a shoddy offensive line, one that has allowed him to be sacked 31 more times in his first three years than Peyton manning for example. That’s horrible. And don’t give me garbage yards, they wouldn’t be garbage yards if our defense wasn’t last or next to last in nearly every single statistical category.
    This offense runs better to me without mesean in there, been saying it for weeks. And hell this week Jameis will be throwing to a short handed cast again. SO if he has a sub par game against a defense that just picked of Arron rogers three times, he’ll be right back in the dog house with the usual crowd. However Monday was a thing of beauty in how he played and despite the fact that some games he’s had better stats, this was in my opinion by far his best game.

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  12. Their will always be critics of Jameis in the fanbase. He can play like Brady and it won’t matter. Too many in the base that didn’t want him and never will. But forget those people. JW needs to improve his consistency going into 2018. I honestly feel we got robbed of a truly great season because of his shoulder injury. The 8 full game sample is more than enough to see the progression he’s made from 2015. (Even with the shoulder injury.) MNF was just the culmination of him being mostly healthy again and the work he’s done.

    As far as Dirk and his offensive regression, I saw that back in October when I did a stat dive on all his offenses 1st half scoring. Slow starts in every single year he’s been a play caller. His most productive years as an OC were with a 5th, 6th and 7th year Matt Ryan and even with Julio, White, & Tony the the offense still struggled to start fast. The efficiency just isn’t there consistently. A buddy of mine noticed Dirk’s play calling improved once down 2 scores. I personally don’t think he’s the answer, but if the Glazers keep him, a new OC/play caller is a must stipulation. And to be clear, it’s not all on him. Players do have to execute, but the brunt of the blame falls on his offense structure & how he often puts his QB in difficult positions to succeed.

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  13. Scoring is brought up a lot in the first part, but the closest thing I see in the graphs to that is offensive ranking. I feel like PPG would be a relevant stat to bring up in a discussion of scoring?

    I’ll just try to sum up on Koetter – he just needs time to learn how to head coach. This stuff doesn’t happen overnight. Belicheck took like 6 seasons before he really got anywhere and got run out of town by Cleveland of all places because they weren’t willing to just sit and develop.

    You want to talk about regression and inconsistency? Check out these stats:
    (I’ll just use Simple Rating System because it also factors in point differentials, strength of schedule, home field advantage and a bunch of other goodies. Higher is better, 0 is average, negative is below average. So being at 0 is basically the 16th rank in comparison to the rest of the league.)

    2002 – 12-4 , -1 OSRS (Offense) 9.8 DRS (Defense)
    2003 – 7-9, -2.8 OSRS, 4.5 DSRS
    2004 – 5-11, – 4 OSRS, 1.3 DSRS
    2005 – 11-5, -2.8 OSRS, 1.8 DSRS
    2006 – 4-12, -7.2 OSRS, -0.8 DSRS
    2007- 9-7, -2.3 OSRS, 3.6 DSRS
    2008 – 9-7, -0.6 OSRS, 2.9 DSRS

    Total – 57-55, -2.1 OSRS, 3.3 DSRS

    What can I say, Chucky-boy really was the model of progression and totally NOT a coach that caught lightning in a bottle in his first year only to never come close to that level ever again. Even in the 11-5 year, he lost in the Wild Card round. Same in the last 9-7 year.

    He really has that trait to kick it up a notch that Trevor “… would argue that’s a trait that exists in top coaches that can be playoff caliber.”

    But sure, I imagine Chucky would just come in and we’ll be awesome. Excuse me for expressing a bit of doubt.

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  14. Trevor, you sure have left yourself wide open for agreements and disagreements.
    Here’s my take after your friends chart? Koetter’s not so bad after all. The trend I saw with Koetter was the defense was getting worse not better on all three teams. I’m not sure Koetter had as much say so with the Bucs when it comes to Defense. He surely had none in Jacksonville and Falcons, but do you know who did on all three teams? Smith is the one and only one we can easily connect the dots to being the problem on all three teams. This has opened my eyes to the fact Koetter gets another year, Smith needs to go, Licth needs to draft DL often in this draft. We’ve been saying this for years that the Defense needs fixing; time to fix it.

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  15. Trevor you’re saying what’s already been said. The difference is you back it up with stats which makes it even worse. This team would be lucky to land Gruden. He will be pursued by the Bears, Giants, maybe Cowboys and others. How many times have we been left at the altar? Think Parcells. It could happen again. The Glazers will back up the Brinks truck and give Gruden total control like Belichick. You may not like it but that’s probably the only way he comes back. McDaniels will turn us down and we’ll end up with the next Morris, Schiano, Lovie Smith, Koetter loser coach if we don’t get Gruden

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  16. “Perhaps there is something to the fact that the Buccaneers have too many weapons, or that Winston thinks he has to get all his receivers fed in the same game”

    Said this in the boards 2 months ago. Please anyone but McDaniels. He showed his true worth in Denver. He has Belicheck and Brady to make him look good.

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  17. Winston has looked great since returning from injury. Whether that change is due to health or his learning experience watching Fitz work, I’m liking what I see. The leadership was always there since day 1, he’s been doing what he needs to do and he’s finally cut down on the “gunslinger” mentality and learned to take what’s there instead of forcing things.

    As for Koetter, I think we’re all ready for Gruden. If that doesn’t work out however, we have to choose wisely and not just take what’s available. I’d be happy with sticking to Koetter a few more years if “the one” isn’t available yet.

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  18. So just going to share a couple of thoughts on Koetter, the team, and 2018 in the context of this column.

    1. Koetter hasn’t shown the ability to adjust. His output across seasons on the same team reflect that in the tables presented in this article. I absolutely believe if we put together the same information on Mike Smith, we would see the same trend. I think these facts are enough to warrant a coaching change after this season.
    2. I’m in New England and I watch the Pats pretty much every week and listen to coworkers loving on their franchise at lunch and in the office after every week. They occasionally ask me ‘what happened to the Bucs this week?’ :-/. I asked a coworker about McDaniels or Patricia and who would make a better head football coach right now. I was kind of leaning towards McDaniels because he’s already done it once with the Broncos and I’m sure learned from it. But he disagreed and said he felt Patricia will be better. That he doesn’t believe McDaniels has the demeanor to command the respect of a room of young men and the leadership to draw out their best performance. And that Patricia better epitomizes a tough demeanor and can give a fiery speech when needed. That, coupled with perhaps an even closer brain trust with Belichick, who’s always been a defense first coach despite what we normally think of when we think of the modern day Patriots, means he’s learned every nuance of how Bill makes in game adjustments and what he looks for in terms of exploiting match ups. And let’s not overlook what he’s done with this years defense. A defense without Dont’a Hightower, without Alan Branch for most of the season, without Rob Ninkovich or any edge rush, without Van Noy for several games, Stephon Gilmore, etc. This has been a seriously depleted defense and they’ve still managed to keep their points against low. Perhaps Patricia isn’t the HC we think of for 2018 because he’s not experienced as a HC, he’s not going to be grooming Winston personally because this isn’t his forte, and because he’s not an offensive guru, but the more I’ve thought of it the more I think he shouldn’t be overlooked for consideration. Partnering him with the RIGHT Offensive Coordinator WITH experience would be key. That hire would be instrumental in making a Patricia hire successful, but who knows, he could be a young Belichick in the making right now the way the current Belichick was groomed under Parcells for so many years.
    3. I’m still on board with the Winston master plan. If you look at the plays breakdown that Trevor put in front of us this column, you can plainly see he can make throws that a lot of the other 31 QBs CAN’T make. He’s a gunslinger because he’s got a serious cannon to sling with. And as Trevor also pointed out, if he just grows a little bit further on his pre-snap reads he’s going to be something special for a long time. No question on whether he becomes the first franchise QB signed to a second contract after his rookie finishes. Easiest decision in the organization right now.

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